Tuesday, June 01, 2021
An important way news sources build trust with their audience is by providing information about their articles and site. This includes information like clear dates and bylines, as well as information about authors, the news source, company or network behind it, and contact information. This type of transparency helps ensure that readers can easily learn information about both the content they are reading, viewing, or listening to and the creators of that content.
Transparency is also an important element of Google’s news policies. These policies help determine what’s eligible to appear on Google News and other News surfaces, and they help ensure we’re elevating content from trusted, authoritative sources. We’re sharing more about our transparency policy today because we want to help news sources understand the principles behind the policy and how to meet them in practice.
Principles behind our approach
To determine what constitutes meaningful transparency from news sources, we consider what types of information an ordinary person might find helpful if they want to assess a site’s credibility. This is strongly aligned with information we know is important based on academic research, journalism industry best practices, and our own user testing.
We also recognize that the global news ecosystem is diverse and evolving. To ensure our transparency policy is inclusive and responsive to industry changes, we have several further principles that guide our approach:
- We consider different regional and country-level expectations and practices around transparency. This is particularly important in areas with less press freedom where practices like naming a journalist can carry significant risk.
- We look at a number of inputs and consider a breadth of editorial practices. This helps ensure that distinctive editorial philosophies—for example, publishing pieces without bylines —don’t affect the credibility of an otherwise authoritative source.
- We consider information that is clearly available to users, so that larger, more technically sophisticated sites and smaller sites that use simple text to convey information are on equal footing.
Principles in practice
Our systems are designed to use these guiding principles when assessing if a site adheres to our transparency policy. At the article level, we consider information that helps users quickly gain context about articles or the journalists covering stories. This includes information like an article byline (that often links to a bio describing the author’s credentials and expertise), the article’s publishing date, and labeling to indicate the article type, for example Opinion or News.
At the site level, we look for information that helps readers understand a site’s purpose, its organizational structure, and the kinds of information they can expect from that site. This includes a breadth of information such as a mission statement, editorial policies and standards, staff information and bios for both editorial and business staff, non-generic contact information, and other organizational-level information like owners and/or funding sources (for example, state-sponsorship, relationship to political parties or PACs).
Transparency requires a thoughtful approach that is attuned to differences in local norms, editorial philosophies, and resources, as well as being dynamic and reflective of evolving standards. We hope our commitment here and to all our news policies helps people around the world stay better informed about the news, and helps news sources be recognized for their work.