Google says it will provide $6.5 million in funding to organizations combating misinformation around the globe, with “an immediate focus on coronavirus.” The initiative will see the company approach the problem from several different angles, working with a broad slate of non-profits.
Misinformation organizations, which often operate on relatively small budgets, are seeing a surge in demand for their work as mistaken or maliciously false information about the pandemic spreads, according to Alexios Mantzarlis of the Google News Lab.
“Uncertainty and fear make us all more susceptible to inaccurate information, so we´re supporting fact-checkers as they address heightened demand for their work,” Mantzarlis said.
A Poynter Institute report last year on the state of fact-checking indicated that more than a fifth of fact-checking organizations operated with annual budgets of less than US$20,000.
“We are supporting fact checking projects around the world with a concentration on parts hardest hit by the pandemic,” Mantzarlis told AFP.
Google is also supporting the creation of a public health resource database for reporters.
“We also want to do more to surface fact-checks that address potentially harmful health misinformation more prominently to our users,” Mantzarlis said.
“We’re experimenting with how to best include a dedicated fact-check section in the COVID-19 Google News experience.”
Google is conducting a test in India and Africa to explore how to use trends in what people are asking or searching for online to let fact-checkers know where a lack of reliable answers may invite misinformation.
“Unanswered user questions — such as ‘what temperature kills coronavirus?’ — can provide useful insights to fact-checkers and health authorities about content they may want to produce,” Mantzarlis said.
Google is also making more local Google Trends data available for journalists, health organizations and local authorities to help them understand people’s information needs around the planet.