Spot misinformation online with these tips
The COVID-19 pandemic. Elections around the world. Fact-checkers worldwide have had a busy year. More than 50,000 new fact checks surfaced on Google Search over the past year, with all fact checks receiving more than 2.4 billion impressions in Search in that timeframe.
A growing body of external research suggests that fact checks can help counter falsehoods. In a new report supported by the Google News Initiative published today, researchers Ethan Porter, Thomas Wood and Yamil Velez found that corrections in the form of fact checks reduce the effects of misinformation on beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact-checking isn’t just for the professionals, however. Every day, people seek evidence to confirm or refute a piece of information they’re uncertain about. Over the past 12 months, Google searches in India for “is it true that...” were higher than “how to make coffee,” and that’s saying something given last year’s Dalgona craze.
We're committed to supporting all users as they look for reliable information online, and sharing our insights with other organizations to strengthen fact checking.
With that in mind, and ahead of International Fact Checking Day on April 2, here are five simple tips to help you ask the right questions so you can better spot misinformation online.
1. Check if an image is being used in the right context: A picture is worth 1000 words, as the old adage goes. But a picture can also be taken out of context or edited to mislead. You can search with an image by right clicking on a photo and selecting “Search Google for Image.” You can do the same on mobile by touching and holding the image. This will look for the picture to check if it has appeared online before, and in what context, so you can see if it has been altered from its original meaning.
See how an image is being used in context online. You can search with an image by right clicking on a photo and selecting “Search Google for Image.” This is a simulated example to illustrate how this product works and not the actual experience.
2. Look for news coverage: What’s better than one source? Several! See how (and whether) different news outlets have reported on the same event so that you can get the full picture. Switch to news mode or search for a topic in news.google.com. Make sure to click through to “Full Coverage” if the option is available.
Looking for news on if Earth was visited by aliens? In this simulated example you can see how you can click to find Full Coverage on a topic, and see what other news orgs are covering it. This GIF is a simulated example and is not the full experience of how the product works.
3. Consult the fact-checkers: Fact-checkers may have addressed that random story your relative sent you in the group chat – or a similar one that will point you in the right direction to find out what really happened. Try searching for the topic in the Fact Check Explorer, which collects more than 100,000 fact checks from reputable publishers around the world.
In this simulated example see how you can use Fact Check Explorer to find out if an online claim has been fact checked. This is a demonstration of how the product works and not the full experience.
4. Use Google Maps or Earth to verify the location: False stories about events happening in far-off places can spread due to our lack of familiarity with their location. If you want to get a sense of whether a photo is actually from the place it claims to be from, try checking Google Earth or look at the Street View of a location on Google Maps in regions where it is available.
Say your friend sends you a story about Bigfoot strolling by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Searching for the Eiffel Tower on Street View will at the very least confirm that the tower doesn’t have a big red cowboy hat at the top (like it does in Paris, Texas). If that part doesn’t check out, the rest of the story might be fishy, too.
In this simulated example, you can see how you can find the differences between the real Eiffel Tower in Paris, France and the one in Paris, Texas. This is just a demonstration and not the full product experience.
We’re committed to helping people spot misinformation online and supporting the fact-checking ecosystem. Most recently, we provided $3 million to journalistic efforts fact-checking misinformation about the COVID-19 immunization process. We're supporting a broad collaborative project led by The Quint in India that will seek to source hyper-local misinformation and distribute fact checks through a grassroots network of rural women.
We will also be launching the first GNI University Verification Challenge across Asia and in India to boost awareness and knowledge among journalism students.
Through our philanthropic arm, we've been supporting Interviews and Dataleads with their FactShala program. Through this training program, 253 journalists, fact-checkers, media educators, non-profit workers and community radio representatives have come together as trainers to educate more than 23,000 people across the country leading over 540 virtual and in-person workshops in at least 15 languages. FactShala has also collaborated with more than 200 radio stations reaching approximately 1.3 million people across 8,400 villages.
For more tips and best practices, check out the resources put together by the International Fact-Checking Network at factcheckingday.com. And if you’re a journalist, check out the GNI Training Center.