For many years, leading figures have been worried about the information being presented online. On social media and across the internet, false information has been somewhat of an issue, meaning that internet and social media users are basing their opinions on information that has no grounding. How do we know what information to trust online?
Fortunately, it’s about to get much easier thanks to fact-checking programs coming from Instagram, Facebook, Google, and many other leading platforms. Let’s take a look at how they work.
Firstly, Google is working on a fact-checking program for the Images section of the service. We’ve all used Google Images at one time or another. Visual media is a powerful way to understand something quickly. However, problems arise when users cannot determine the authenticity or origin of an image.
Back in June, Google announced global fact-checking for Images to help all users overcome these very problems. Google has already made changes to the News and Search part of the service, now extended to Images. With increased fact-checking, it hopes that users can make more informed and accurate decisions based on what they find on the platform.
How does it work? Well, type something into Google, head into the Images tab, and some of the thumbnail images will have ‘Fact Check’ underneath. As you know, each image has an underlying web page and we tap on images to make them larger (as well as to click through to said web page). Now, after tapping on an image, it will display all fact-checking information. Whether the story is about the image, or the image just happens to be displayed on the web page, you’ll see information regarding the claim and the image in question.
To see this label, ClaimReview plays a very important role because this is a system that publishers use to highlight that their content has been fact-checked for search engines. Through an open API and dedicated search tool, you can actually view the full fact check library.
As soon as this feature was revealed, we saw lots of businesses and marketers asking how this would affect ranking. Would marketers need to work even harder to appear in the early pages of search results? In short, the answer is no. Just like Search and News, the fact-checking system does not affect ranking in any way. For Google, the aim is to fact check the most relevant content. Therefore, it wants to fact check the results that naturally appear at the top.
As you may have seen, Google is a staunch supporter of fact-checking on the internet and has invested funding of over $6 million to various organizations around the world. Not only are images now fact-checked, but users can also review context and other information about the images they see daily. This is a big step in the battle against fake news, clickbait, and other poor sources of news.
It’s not just Google, since Instagram and Facebook are on the way to rolling out fact-checking programs as well. In 2019, Facebook revealed that it would work with factcheck.org and other specialists to determine the quality of information available on the platform. Facebook wants to prevent misinformation from getting attention. Posts that are flagged as false no longer appear on News Feeds and in front of others of the platform. Now, this same feature extends to Instagram.
In fact, this change occurred in May 2019; although you may not have noticed consciously, you have been forming opinions based on more accurate information for over 12 months now. Whenever a post is flagged as false, dissemination will be limited as much as possible. For example, it shouldn’t appear in hashtag results pages nor should it have a position on the Explore tab.
Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t have total control; users will still see flagged posts if they follow the account from which it originated. Similarly, Facebook has decided to prevent dissemination. Therefore, those who do not follow the account directly will never see the false posts.
As time goes on, Facebook investigates more potential features in this area. Like the annotations on YouTube, it seems we could soon receive pop-ups after searching for topics known for misinformation.
Although this has been a hot topic since 2019, Facebook actually started its journey on this path back in 2016. After noticing the sheer amount of misinformation on the platform, it partnered with fact-checking services and organizations. Currently, it’s thought that the company works with 52 different services covering at least 33 countries. Now, it is expanding into groups where misinformation is prominent.
The company started by introducing fact-checking features on Facebook, and then the attention turned to Instagram. In the initial stages, experts have shown their concerns over implementing the same programs from Facebook on Instagram. With posts working in a different way, Instagram tends to have fewer news posts and not as many links to external pages. We’re sure time will tell if Facebook is forced to adapt and generate different programs to make fact-checking efficient on Instagram too.
If we look back to the fact-checking introduction on Facebook itself, there were problems for the company at first. A couple of years ago, Facebook was questioned for not taking this area seriously enough. Not long after, Snopes decided to end all relations with Facebook and help with fact-checking the rest of the internet instead.
After the initial May 2019 trials, the effort from Instagram was increased and it was working with 45 different fact-checking organizations by the end of the year.
As users of the platform will know, anything considered false, whether a video or an image, is removed from communal areas. Additionally, content is covered with a warning and users can only see the content if they actively click to reveal it. It was actually Instagram that first introduced this specific feature and it subsequently made its way back to Facebook. Originally, Facebook offered a warning but still allowed users to view the misinformation.
For Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, he says that it’s a tricky topic to navigate. Ultimately, he believes that challenger candidates need the ability to advertise or else they struggle to promote their campaign. Although politicians can’t link a fund-raising campaign directly to a post, due to Instagram’s rules, it’s still possible to include links in bios and Stories.
It seems the challenge for Instagram has been more extensive than for Facebook due to the nature of the image-based posts. Now, the platform uses image matching systems to assess the reliability of content. The technology will look for other copies of false content and use labeling to help users determine the reliability of all content.
When the news leaked about Instagram’s unwillingness to monitor political ads, Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snapchat, was quick to note that it did things differently. Snapchat now reviews all advertising content, regardless of where it originates and all political advertising is reviewed by a dedicated team.
Over the last couple of years, TikTok has grown exponentially in the Western world. Whether it survives the Trump administration in the United States or not, the platform has worked hard to introduce fact-checking systems. For instance, this includes the banning of ‘deepfakes’ (photoshopped and edited images/videos) and the expansion of fact-checking. Users can also report misinformation, and this feature was introduced in the summer with the 2020 election in mind.
Misinformation is a big problem, and it’s good to see all the major platforms doing something about it. Whether it’s on Google Images, or Facebook and Instagram, the information we’re shown is steadily growing to be more accurate and reliable.
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