Google’s newly introduced fact-checking feature may be designed to exclusively target alternative broadcasters and media outlets, as the IT giant’s impartiality cannot be guaranteed, a peace activist and the spokesman for the Belgian Vrede peace movement told Sputnik on Monday.
On Friday, Google said in an official blog post that the company had launched a feature, to be available worldwide, in which results of searches and news would be integrated with information from various fact-checking websites, ultimately determining whether the information is considered to be true or false.
“I am afraid indeed that alternative and critical news outlets will be victims of this kind of fact-checking. There is no guarantee that this will be happening independently or can affect distortions made by mainstream media. We face a big risk that we will be subjected to narratives of main stream politics without any guarantee that these are really fact based, while alternative views will be discredited,” Ludo de Brabander said.
Vrede’s spokesman underlined that, nowadays, disinformation and propaganda have become tactics of media wars, and that new Google’s feature may very well be used in this kind of information warfare.
“I think this will lead to exactly the opposite to what it is supposed to prevent: a tool for propaganda. Information is embedded in a political context you cannot neglect and by definition a powerful instrument to influence public opinion for political gains,” de Brabander stated.
Peace Activist Doubts Google’s Tool to Ensure Unbiased News Fact-Checking
The history of media manipulations playing a major role in legitimizing the US invasion in Iraq has proven that Google’s close ties with western political circles should not be underestimated when it comes to evaluating the credibility of its new fact-checking search feature, Ludo de Brabander told Sputnik.
“I have little faith in a fact checking mechanism by a monopolist media [Google] that is closely connected to the western political and cultural power system. Recalling how stories have been fabricated in the leading up to the Iraq war of 2003 for example, history has proven more than once how big media corporations are easily used in international political battle,” Ludo de Brabander said.
The recent US missiles strikes at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha’irat near Homs conducted in response to the alleged chemical weapons use in Idlib, the coverage of which, according to de Brabander, was dramatically one-sided, have proven that media corporations can be used for purposes of war and have shown their vulnerability to political manipulations.
“These last days we have been witnessing how the incident in Khan Sheikhoun has been framed to blame the Syrian government for a chemical attack, although there are no hard facts and different possible narratives on what had happened. I doubt that Google will qualify these stories as doubtful or even false,” de Brabander noted.
According to Google, the new feature was introduced as a part of its efforts to help combat the spread of misinformation and fake news. Fact checks would not be provided by the company itself and would instead use fact-checking findings from such web sources as PolitiFact and Snopes. According to the company’s blog, the international fact-checking community currently consists of 115 organizations.
“Nobody will doubt that there is a lot of fake news or one-sided narratives distributed on the internet. So from a moral point of view it is legitimate to try to differentiate between news that is based on facts and serious on the one hand and news that is sold as true or is a one sided narrative without verifying all facts,” de Brabander said adding that one should not forget that this tool can be used to promote policies and ideologies.
In 2003, a US-led coalition invaded Iraq, without a UN mandate, after accusing then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
Following the Idlib chemical incident on Tuesday, a number of media reports immediately blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack. Several western officials, including UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, French President Francois Hollande and US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have also blamed Assad, albeit without providing any credible evidence.
The Syrian foreign minister has denied the government’s involvement in the Idlib incident, saying it had never nor would it ever use chemical weapons on either civilians or terrorists operating in the country.
Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the RT broadcaster and Sputnik news agency, questioned on Monday whether several foreign media were up to the task of helping Google fact-check news stories.
“These people (CNN, BBC, The Guardian) wouldn’t recognize fake news if it hit them in the face. But they will still help Google fight it,” Simonyan wrote on her Twitter.
The list of fact-checking sites contains 115 media organizations, including The Guardian newspaper, The New York Times newspaper, BBC and CNN broadcasters, Associated Press news agency, NBC News broadcaster.
According to Google’s April statement, only claims by publishers “algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information” will be displayed.