Google on Thursday said it is pumping $6.5 million into fact-checkers and nonprofits as it ramps up its the battle against coronavirus misinformation.
Fact-checking organisations, 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 $20,000.
“We are supporting fact-checking projects around the world with a concentration on parts hardest hit by the pandemic,” Mantzarlis told AFP.
“This can be a noticeable infusion of additional support at a time of stress.”
Google is also looking to use its products and “ecosystem” to bolster the battle against COVID-19 misinformation.
The Google News Initiative is increasing its support for nonprofit First Draft, which provides a resource hub, training and crisis simulations for journalists covering news during times of crisis, according to Mantzarlis.
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.