I just celebrated my 10th anniversary at Google. Before joining, I worked as a journalist at BBC News in various roles, including experimenting with new forms of digital storytelling ahead of the London 2012 Olympics.
Most of my time was spent in busy broadcast newsrooms, where the quickest way to check a fact in a story was often to pick up a telephone. Even then, fact-checking wasn’t always so simple, and the news industry and the technologies used by journalists have changed a great deal since.
Our work at the Google News Initiative supports both journalists and fact-checking organisations doing the work to fight misinformation. We create products and tools to help news consumers around the world better understand what they are seeing online.
Since 2018, the Google News Initiative has invested nearly US$75 million in projects and partnerships to strengthen media literacy and combat misinformation around the world. As part of that effort, I lead a team offering partnerships and training in 70 countries to bring Google technology to journalists and newsroom leaders. We have trained more than 555,000 journalists and journalism students, and provided workshops on digital verification to more than 250,000 journalists.
Our goal is to strengthen digital skills and provide new ways for journalists to verify sources, fact check, and explore different forms of storytelling.
Fighting misinformation around the world
While navigating the uncertainty and challenges of the last few years, it has proven increasingly important for people to access accurate information and sort facts from fiction. One of the things I value most in my work is the opportunity to work directly with journalists on critical areas such as this one, with input from expert practitioners in the space.
We actively support a range of partnerships focused on fighting misinformation around the world. This year, we partnered with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to support more than 2,000 fact-checkers from 60 different countries. In Europe specifically, for example, we contributed to the European Media & Information Fund and Google’s own information literacy programmes and research.
This year, Google.org is supporting Demagog Czechia with a grant to launch a regional cooperation initiative, together with Demagog Poland and Slovakia. This will strengthen the fact-checking ecosystem across Slavic-speaking countries and increase their ability to amplify their impact by leveraging tech solutions.
We also recently announced new initiatives across Africa.
Africa Check was the first independent fact-checking organisation established on the continent. With support from Google, it was able to both scale training efforts across Eastern Africa and help strengthen the local fact-checking ecosystem. As we shared recently, Africa Check will begin hosting fact-checking workshops, designed to improve the quality of information relied upon by millions of news consumers in Eastern Africa.
Tools to help you evaluate reliable information
Google has a track record of investing in product features that help people build media and information literacy skills online. One tool I’ve found particularly helpful is About this Result in Google Search, which provides important context about a result before you visit the page, including a description of the site, when it was first indexed, and what others say about the site and topic. You can see this information by simply tapping the three dots next to a search result.
Google News has another important feature I find helpful to make more informed judgments about the information you come across online. On both desktop and mobile, you can find a Fact Check section that has fact-check assessments on news stories from independent organisations.
Sometimes interest in a breaking news topic travels faster than facts, or there isn’t enough reliable information yet online about a given subject. Information literacy experts refer to this as a data void. We recently added content advisories in Search in situations when a topic is rapidly evolving, indicating that it might be best to check back later when more sources are available.
Misinformation is a critical issue, and it cannot be solved by one organisation alone. We are constantly seeking new ways to partner with the leading fact-checking organisations globally and are incorporating best practices into our products.
There’s more to do, and more to come. Our third Fighting Misinformation Online event will take place in Brussels on November 29, 2022, a forum for those working across sectors to come together to tackle misinformation.