Search engine giant Google has rolled out an enhanced fact check feature for all searches made on the site from today.
This comes as part of a global move to fight the proliferation of fake news and incorrect information, with rising concern over political and social use of news stories made to mislead the public.
The feature provides fact checking sites, such as Snopes and Politifact, with richer snippets in their Google search results highlighting whether a particular news story or internet myth is true of false.
This means that you can see if the news is ‘fake’ without having to actually click through and read the article.
While this is a welcome new addition, it doesn’t do anything to affect the ranking of the articles. If the fact check article would normally show up on page four, it will still show up on page four, just with enhanced information being displayed.
It also won't flag sites which deal in satire, so anyone fooled by those pushing out this type of content will still have to do their own investigative work to realize the web page they're reading is just a bit of fun.
Facebook introduced a similar, but slightly better, feature back in December 2016 with its ‘Disputed by’ tab appearing at the bottom of posts.
This means that if certain affiliated third parties - including Snopes and Politifact - disagree with a story, a tab appears at the bottom of the share window saying “Disputed by ....”, effectively intercepting the story before it can be read and disseminated.
All this demonstrates that the fight about fake news is being taken seriously online. In good time too, with recent moves in Europe to introduce legislature about fake news and hate crimes on social media.
On Wednesday, the German government approved a bill that will impose fines on social media sites that fail to remove fake news or hate speech, with the time limits and fines adjusted for how obviously fake it is, and how long it takes to get it removed.
It will be interesting to see in the coming months how all of these measures affect the spread of fake news. If they help people to become better informed, we certainly welcome them.