Google unveils next step in identifying ‘credible content’ online

indicatorsGoogle is funding a project involving 75 news organisations around the world to devise indicators that will help people distinguish the difference between quality journalism and promotional content or misinformation.

The company said that approximately 50,000 web pages filled with information come online each day. It relies on algorithms to sort and rank them them, according to their credibility. But the constantly changing nature of the Web means that the system is not perfect.

It has been investing in helping people understand what they are reading by providing visual signposts and labels. It has added clear labelling to stories in Google News, and last year it launched the Fact Check tag globally in Google News and Search. Recently it added information to its ‘knowledge panels‘ to help people get a quick insight into publishers.

Today, it announced a move toward a similar labeling effort by the Trust Project, which is hosted at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. The project, which is funded by Google among others, has been working with more than 75 news organizations from around the world to come up with indicators to help people distinguish the difference between quality journalism and promotional content or misinformation.

The publishers involved include the BBC, dpa, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, Hearst Television, Mic, La Repubblica, La Stampa, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

In a first step, the Project has released eight trust indicators that newsrooms can add to their content. “This information will help readers understand more about what type of story they’re reading, who wrote it, and how the article was put together,” said Jeff Chang, group product manager of search at Google.

The eight indicators are:

  • Best Practices: Who funds the news outlet and their mission, plus an outlet’s commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections, and other standards.
  • Author Expertise: Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis, and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions in a news story.
  • Methods: For in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced: Lets people know that the story has local roots, origin, or expertise.
  • Diverse Voices: A newsroom’s efforts to bring in diverse perspectives.
  • Actionable Feedback: A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, and ensuring accuracy.

News organisations embed markup from into the HTML code of their articles and on their website. When platforms like Google crawl the content, they can easily parse out the information.

“This works like the ClaimReview schema tag we use for fact-checking articles,” said Chang. “Once we’ve done that, we can analyse the information and present it directly to the user in our various products.”

“Our next step is to figure out how to display these trust indicators next to articles that may appear on Google News, Google Search, and other Google products where news can be found.

“Some possible treatments could include using the ‘Type of Work’ indicator to improve the accuracy of article labels in Google News, and indicators such as ‘Best Practices’ and ‘Author Info’ in our knowledge panels.

“We believe this is a great first step for the Trust Project and look forward to future efforts as well.”