In celebration of international fact-checking day (the fakest sounding holiday I’ve ever heard of), Google is adding two new misinformation-busting features to Search. These features are pretty hands-off and will not impact your Search experience, though they may remind you to use some critical thinking skills when reading new stories.
The first new feature, which is active for users in 20 languages, simply warns you when a story is breaking or developing. If you search for “plane crash” within hours of a nightmarish aviation accident, for example, Google Search will display a banner stating, “these results are changing quickly … it can take time for results to be added by reliable sources.”
Breaking stories often miss facts and contain inaccuracies or speculation. So, showing a banner to warn about breaking news makes a ton of sense. Even if you ignore the misinformation standpoint, this feature should help users understand why breaking news lacks the widespread coverage of established stories.
Google’s second new feature, which isn’t available just yet, helps you find the source of a story. I’m very happy about this feature—journalism is often a game of telephone, and stories can lose a lot of details (or gain a lot of nonsense) when they’re parroted from one site to the next.
If Search detects that a ton of websites are linking to the same story, it’ll mark that story with a “highly cited” label. Google hasn’t finalized how this label will work, but I guess we’ll find out in a few months.
My only concern is that the “highly cited” label may not get a ton of use. Journalists suck at citing their sources, and I say that as someone who reads a bunch of news all day.