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Google to start fact-checking images

Consumers may see a fact check label on certain photos when browsing online

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Photo (c) brightstars - Getty Images
The old idiom that every picture tells a story is causing concern at Google. With all the graphic manipulation tools the world has at its fingertips, the tech giant is taking a deeper, under-the-covers look at the authenticity of the visual media that pops up on Google Images to make sure that every picture tells the correct story.

It’s taken nearly two years to get the message that consumers are skeptical of online photos, but effective immediately, Google is implementing fact checks into its image-posting process so people are aware of any issues and can make more informed decisions. 

Look for the “Fact Check” label

Going forward, when someone searches Google Images, they may see a "Fact Check" label under the thumbnail image results. Tapping on that label gives the user a quick overview of what Google found in its fact check, both for specific images and articles that include a supposedly fake image.

Google says that it already fact checks on regular Search and in Google News, but for this venture, the company is relying on results from ClaimReview, an open-source method Google already employs for YouTube and one used by web publishers to denote fact check content to search engines. 

“Photos and videos are an incredible way to help people understand what’s going on in the world. But the power of visual media has its pitfalls⁠ -- especially when there are questions surrounding the origin, authenticity or context of an image,” commented Harris Cohen, Google’s Search Group Product Manager.

Fact-checking continues to grow

Google’s not the first -- and certainly won’t be the last -- company to employ fact-checking. Weeding out fake news, videos, and photos has become a must for every Big Tech member that wants to remain in good standing with its user base. 

However, there’s no company as proactive about that work as Facebook. The social media platform bumped up its fact-checking in the aftermath of the 2016 election and also went on a tirade earlier this year to bust myths about the coronavirus.

In a recent Washington Post Live interview, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki remarked that the company yanks videos that violate its policies, including hate speech, inciting violence, or any type of manipulated media that could cause disinformation. 

Wojcicki said it doesn’t matter if those doctored videos are from a politician or anyone else, but she said that YouTube’s new rules keep some of the videos available if they are presented in context, by a news report, or for educational purposes.

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