Both Facebook and Google announced new plans to tackle the problem of fake news on the same day. Facebook is testing out a new feature that displays a list of related articles before you click on a link to a news story, so that the user is presented with multiple viewpoints from different sources. Google has tweaked the search rankings, has improved the autocomplete feature, and has committed to being more transparent about Google products.
Facebook had initially introduced the related stories feature back in 2013. Related stories would appear in the news feed after people had read an article. Now, in an area below the link, Facebook will display the related articles even before users have clicked on the link. The related stories are more likely to appear below hot topics, or trending topics with a lot of discussion going on around them. This is an effort by Facebook to present users with additional perspectives on any story. For the pages, there will be almost no changes in how their content gets delivered, the related stories feature is just an add on.
Google is using humans to evaluate the quality of search results, and to identify areas where Google needs to improve. The inputs and feedback from the humans do not directly affect the search rankings to any single page. Google has indicated that it will be surfacing articles from authoritative sources higher up in the results, and burying the sources that are likely to contain offensive or falsified information. Google has committed to not censoring the search results. However, if you search for "Holocaust history", there are fewer chances now of users being presented with articles about Holocaust denial.
Google has introduced tools to allow users to directly give feedback on offensive, inappropriate or wrong autocomplete predictions, as well as information presented in the featured snippets. Autocomplete predictions are a list of options that appear in real time below the search bar, there is now an option to report inappropriate predictions to the bottom right of the autocomplete window. The search snippets are boxes of concise information that appear above search results. A feedback button is now available to the bottom right of the featured snippets.
Google has made sure that the users and website owners have a greater understanding of what goes on behind the scenes in Google. Towards this end, Google has updated the How Search Works site. The detailed information is for those looking to jump into the deep end of figuring out how Google search works. Google has indicated that it will be changing the systems and continually making enhancements to reduce the amount of fake news, and improve the user experience at the same time.
The measures by Facebook and Google are the latest in a series of steps taken to combat the problem of fake news. Previously, Facebook had rolled out a report feature that allows users to flag fake content. Dubious articles now have a pop up that warns the user that the article has been disputed by independent fact checkers. Facebook took the step to ban websites that posted misinformation from using its advertising platform. Facebook has set up anti fake news initiatives in France and Germany.
Google introduced a fact check button for news stories that displays information from fact checking organisations next to the search results. Articles that have been fact checked include a "fact check" label.
In early January, Google went ahead and permanently banned over two hundred sites that displayed questionable content. Some were banned for showing misleading advertisements, while other were banned for impersonating other legitimate sites.