Google suspends fact-checking feature over quality concerns

Google is suspending a search feature that displayed fact checks associated to publishers after receiving criticism from conservative news outlets.

“We launched the reviewed claims feature in our Knowledge Panel at the end of last year as an experiment with the aim of helping people quickly learn more about news publications,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Poynter. “We said previously that we encountered challenges in our systems that maps fact checks to publishers, and on further examination it’s clear that we are unable to deliver the quality we’d like for users.”

A spokesperson for Google further clarified to Poynter on Friday that the tech company isn’t ending its fact-checking efforts altogether — just the Reviewed Claims section of its Knowledge Panel feature. Fact checks from independent organizations will still appear alongside articles in search and Google News. (Disclosure: Both Poynter and the International Fact-Checking Network receive funding from Google.)

Google launched the Knowledge Panel feature in November on mobile and desktop in an effort to display information about specific publishers in search. Part of that feature included a Reviewed Claims column that matched outlets’ disputed claims with fact checks contributed by independent fact-checking organizations to the Schema.org ClaimReview markup.

That feature came under fire last week, as Poynter reported, when The Daily Caller published a story lambasting Google for wrongly appending a Washington Post Fact Checker debunk to one of its stories about Robert Mueller’s investigation team.

The Daily Caller Reviewed Claims
Google's algorithm erroneously linked a Washington Post fact check to a Daily Caller article about Mueller's investigation team. The claim in question was never made in the piece. (Screenshot from Google)

Several other right-wing outlets picked up the story, which also took issue with the publishers that Google was — and wasn’t — applying the Reviewed Claims feature to. Google told Poynter on Friday that the decision to suspend Reviewed Claims resulted in part because of The Daily Caller’s complaint, as well as feedback from other users.

Going forward, Google’s spokesperson said that they’re working to figure out how to improve the Reviewed Claims feature before re-launching it, adding that the company conducts about 150,000 experiments like that a year. While the feature won’t be scrapped entirely, they could not provide a timeframe for its reinstatement.

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