WASHINGTON – Google plans to use “knowledge cards” or “newstrition labels” for news articles that appear in Google search results as a way to provide “greater degrees of transparency” for readers and filter out fake news, according to an executive of the company.
“We’ve been using the phrase ‘newstrition’ internally. I use that because it’s not a Good Housekeeping rule that says ‘this is good or bad,’ it says, ‘no, here’s the ingredient information you need to know about the publication, make your own judgment,’” Richard Gingras, vice president of news at Google, said at the Newseum and the Trust Project’s panel discussion last Friday, “Rebuilding Trust in Journalism.”
“So should those knowledge cards about USA Today or Mic have ‘here’s the editorial masthead, here are the editors,’ who owns the publication, for instance. So greater transparency about the organization in and of itself – we think that’s one step,” he added.
Sally Lehrman, director of The Trust Project, said more than 75 news outlets worked on developing “transparency standards” that Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter plan to incorporate into their platforms. Lehrman said some news organizations such as the Washington Post are beginning to use trust indictors on their published content.
“If you as a news organization provide these types of information, then users can understand where you’re coming from,” she said. “And that’s been one of the problems up until now is that people don’t particularly understand if there is a stance behind the news or not.”
Gingras said that trust indicators, knowledge cards or newstrition labels in Google News search results would help readers understand the “expertise” behind a news story and the “underlying motivation” of the author.
“That’s perfection – we won’t get there, but we need to try,” he said. “We want to help our users have a better sense of what they are looking at. So, for instance, understanding what type of article this is – is it news coverage or is it an opinion piece – is important, and we want to be able to present that to our users in that way.”
Gingras explained that Google became involved with the Trust Project as a way to gain more “ingredient information” to help the search engine gain a better understanding of specific news stories.
“Now we just understand the context, the text of the article. Can we understand more about the author – more about the body of work of the author? I would much rather give an edge to a reporter, for instance, who works on that beat all the time,” he said.
“Can we understand more citations that might support the conclusions the author reached in the article? These things will all be immensely helpful to use as we evolve our systems to help understand the nature of the underlying content and do a better job of giving the user not only the highest quality, most authoritative information we can find, but also the additional indicators or signals to help them make their own determination as to what they are seeing and how they take that knowledge and actually help themselves be good citizens,” Gingras said.
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org, is “optimistic” about the news media regaining the trust of the public.
“There are groups forming to understand and counter things like media manipulation and information warfare. For example, at Poynter Institute, there’s the International Fact-Checking Network with Politifact and Snopes.com,” he said. “The deal is to form an accountable network of networks of fact checkers who show how they arrived at their conclusions. Their job would be to keep news outlets honest.”