Over the next three years, Google has promised to spend $300 million to help fight false and unreliable information that has been plaguing the internet.
On Tuesday, March 20, at an event in New York, Google announced its new campaign which will be called the Google News Initiative. The initiative has several goals, including making subscribing to news publications easier for Google users and providing new tools to publishers that will help them create fast-loading mobile pages. At a time when many tech companies are being criticized for permitting misinformation to flourish on their services, Google is starting its most ambitious project to date to improve the quality of the information it displays to users.
In a blog post, chief business officer for Google Philipp Schindler said, that this initiative is intended to indicate the company’s “commitment to a news industry facing dramatic shifts in how journalism is created, consumed and paid for.”
According to the New York Times, “As part of its efforts, Google is helping to create a Disinfo Lab in partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School’s First Draft, which will attempt to identify false news during critical breaking news situations. Google and YouTube, the video site owned by Google’s parent company, have been criticized for allowing conspiracy theories and unreliable partisan sources to filter to the top of search results for breaking news and for having failed to stop the spread of false news during the 2016 presidential race. Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news products, said the company had built new tools, including some already in operation, to prevent malicious actors from gaming its search algorithms to spread disinformation. He pointed to the search results for the shooting at a Maryland high school earlier Tuesday. Unlike the search results for similar previous shootings, which surfaced stories from hoax websites and toxic message boards, the results on both Google and YouTube for topics related to the Maryland shooting were dominated by stories from legitimate mainstream publications.”
Gingras said, “We want to make it easier for users to see the authoritative coverage up front.”
A media literacy project was also announced by Google’s nonprofit part Google.org. It will invest $10 million towards teaching teenagers across the United States the skills to be able to better identify false news. This program, the company said, will involve the use of GIFs, memes, videos and YouTube celebrities “to respond to the spread of misinformation.”
NYT reports, “Google also pledged to take on an emerging trend: ‘synthetic media,’ a genre of photos and videos that are manipulated using artificial intelligence software. The most troublesome form has been ‘deepfakes,’ ultrarealistic fake videos that swap one face onto another. Experts are concerned that these creations could poison the information landscape. Google didn’t unveil any specific plans to address synthetic media but said it would release data sets to journalism organizations and researchers to help them develop tools to spot the fakes.”
Gingras said, “This won’t solve the problem, but the more brains we put behind it, the more progress we can all make.”
By Rachel Shapiro