Google is now rolling out labels to help users fact-check results discovered via its Search platform, specifically for Image search. As implied, the newly reported labels appear when users search using that tab on Google.com or via Google Images. More directly, they’ll appear just below the thumbnail for an image after that’s been clicked through to show more details.
The end goal for Google with this latest change follows on others it has recently made. Summarily, it wants to help its users “make more informed judgments about what they see on the web.”
To that end, Google says that the labels will appear in two places in particular. Namely, that’s for “fact check articles” that have been written about a specific image or images. Or for those that “include an image in the story.” Now, images that may not, in fact, be real will showcase a brief summary of the fact check in question.
By way of example, a user might search Google image tools to discover pictures of a shark swimming down the highway in Houston and be met with a fact-check. That’ll be shown in addition to the preview of the image. In this case, it would pull the summary from somewhere such as a PolitiFact article on the matter. Then, it would showcase that the fact-checkers rated the claim as “pants on fire” since it was clearly photoshopped.
The source of the fact-check information will vary from image to image. But it will always come from “independent, authoritative sources on the web,” Google says.
Google Images isn’t the first case of the company resorting to fact-check things
While the fact-check feature on the image side of Google search might be new, this is not the first time the company has decided to take these kinds of measures. In fact, as far back as 2017, the search giant introduced a fact-checking tool for its news results to a wider range of countries. And in mid-2017, it built on those tools again.
That case was a bit different, however, owing to the fact that the news itself was being marked as fact-checked if it had been. But the premise is the same. Google’s effort on that front was a bid to ensure that users knew for certain whether the article they were reading had been checked for factual accuracy. With the new tool, it’s hoping to do the same for imagery.
In April, the company pushed a similar initiative, donating $6.5 Million to fund fact-checking activities about the ongoing health concerns sweeping the globe.
When will this arrive and where?
As with the above-mentioned health initiative, this new image search fact-checking effort is kicking off globally right from the start. But users won’t necessarily see it soon or at all. The search giant has clarified that, as with its more general fact-checking in Search, the labels will have no impact on search results ranking.
That means the images are appearing naturally as part of the underlying algorithm. They won’t be pushed to the top or suppressed because they have the labels. That’s arguably going to be a good thing for the company. It currently faces strong opposition in government, taking the form of what equates to an anti-censorship bill. By ensuring that the underlying algorithm remains unchanged, it may be able to keep itself from getting into too much hot water over the new labels.