November 2, 2016
The 2016 US presidential elections will be remembered for lies, false statements and inaccurate information. The only bright spot is it has kept a lot of journalists in a job as fact checkers, as people go looking for the truth online.
Google took note, and the tech giant recently launched a new and interesting feature in Google News in the UK and the US: Fact Check. With it, Google is going to battle false or inaccurate news. The tool should help you to verify if a news article is trustworthy or not. Articles that were published by official news websites or that have been fact checked will get this special label in Google News. Hopefully this will prevent false news from spreading fast online or even worse, becoming a trending topic.
The update comes right on time because there’s a growing concern about the truth of articles published online, especially in the US with the presidential elections coming up. Facebook (that doesn’t have a fact check feature yet) for instance has recently come under fire because it promoted fake news. There was an incident where Facebook promoted the fake story ‘Breaking: Fox News exposes traitor Megyn Kelly, kicks her out for backing Hillary’. Facebook says it changed its algorithm after the event but since then but the social media platform still promoted several fake or inaccurate stories in the weeks after that.
However, simply adding “Fact Check” to a headline isn’t enough to gain Google’s seal of approval. Authors will need to follow strict guidelines, and add a tag in the schema mark up (that’s a job for IT!) or risk being removed from Google news altogether.
For news consumers, this feature will probably be a good thing. No more wondering if a news article is true or false or if you can thrust the source. But what about the effects for journalists and PR consultants?
There’s a trend towards more opinion articles, blogs, and social media contributions and away from long, dry articles. It’s unlikely that this will change. But it’s only a good thing that factual mistakes are flagged and corrected before inaccurate information start leading it’s one life online.
For PR pros, this new feature opens up new opportunities. PR campaigns are increasingly data-driven. Professionals have access to open data that can support a corporate message, or use internal data to generate stories. While Google is putting more emphasis on fact checking, there is an opportunity for alert PR pros to help journalists to improve their arguments by providing them with the right data at the right time.
While Google’s Fact Check is undoubtedly a good thing for those hunting for the truth, for PRs it may be nothing more than good old fashioned Newsjacking.