Google Inc is giving the subjects of news stories a way to comment on articles written about them.
The online search leader launched an experimental feature this week on its Google News site in the US that allows any person mentioned in a news story that is linked on that site to submit a written response.
A Google employee then must verify the authenticity of the e-mail. Some methods include independently tracking down the subject's contact information and calling that person directly, or checking the author's e-mail address and phone number against information on a company or organization Web site.
If the author's identity is confirmed, the response is posted on the same page as the search results for the story.
Google pointed to several examples on the site Wednesday, including one from a McDonald's Corp spokesman responding to a story about preschoolers preferring food wrapped in McDonald's packaging, and another from a professor at the University of California at San Francisco commenting on the importance of a new HIV treatment.
Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker declined to say how many people are working on the project or how many responses from news subjects Google has received so far.
Google announced the feature Tuesday in a blog posting.
"It's still early, but we're encouraged by what we've seen thus far," Stricker said.
The feature helps Google's news site evolve from being solely an aggregator of news articles to a forum where news subjects -- and even the journalists who wrote the stories -- can respond publicly to criticisms. The company emphasized that the feature is in the testing phase.