Category Archives: Google News Blog

The official blog from the team at Google News

Make your own data gifs with our new tool

Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex. In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.

Enter data gifs.

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These animations can be used for a variety of sophisticated storytelling approaches among data journalists: one example is Lena Groeger, who has become *the* expert in working with data gifs.

Today we are releasing Data Gif Maker, a tool to help journalists make these visuals, which show share of search interest for two competing topics.

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Data Gif Maker works like this:

1. Enter two data points

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We typically use the tool to represent competing search interest, but it can show whatever you want it to—polling numbers, sales figures, movie ratings, etc. If you want to show search interest, you can compare two terms in the Google Trends explore tool, which will give you an average number (of search interest over time) for each term. Then input those two numbers in Data Gif Maker.

2. Add your text

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3. Choose your colors

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4. Choose your explanatory text

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5. Hit “Launch Comparisons” and “Download as Gif”

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And there you go—you’ve made your first animated data gif. Pro-tip #1: the high resolution download takes longer but it’s better quality for social sharing. Pro-tip #2: Leave the window open on your desktop while it’s creating the gifs as it will do so quicker.

If you want the visual, but not the gif, hit “Launch Comparisons” and it will open in your browser window. Just hit space to advance through the views (it’s set up to show five pieces of data, one after the other).

Find the tool useful? We’d love to see what you do with it. Email us at newslabtrends@google.com.

AI in the newsroom: What’s happening and what’s next?

Bringing people together to discuss the forces shaping journalism is central to our mission at the Google News Lab. Earlier this month, we invited Nick Rockwell, the Chief Technology Officer from the New York Times, and Luca D’Aniello, the Chief Technology Officer at the Associated Press, to Google’s New York office to talk about the future of artificial intelligence in journalism and the challenges and opportunities it presents for newsrooms.

The event opened with an overview of the AP's recent report, "The Future of Augmented Journalism: a guide for newsrooms in the age of smart machines,” which was based on interviews with dozens of journalists, technologists, and academics (and compiled with the help of a robot, of course). As early adopters of this technology, the AP highlighted a number of their earlier experiments:

Boxing match image captured by one of AP’s AI-powered cameras
This image of a boxing match was captured by one of AP’s AI-powered cameras.
  • Deploying more than a dozen AI-powered robotic cameras at the 2016 Summer Olympics to capture angles not easily available to journalists
  • Using Google’s Cloud Vision API to classify and tag photos automatically throughout the report
  • Increasing news coverage of quarterly earnings reports from 400 to 4,000 companies using automation

The report also addressed key concerns, including risks associated with unchecked algorithms, potential for workflow disruption, and the growing gap in skill sets.

Here are three themes that emerged from the conversation with Rockwell and D’Aniello:

1. AI will increase a news organization's ability to focus on content creation

D’Aniello noted that journalists, often “pressed for resources,” are forced to “spend most of their time creating multiple versions of the same content for different outlets.” AI can reduce monotonous tasks like these and allow journalists to to spend more of their time on their core expertise: reporting.

For Rockwell, AI could also be leveraged to power new reporting, helping journalists analyze massive data sets to surface untold stories. Rockwell noted that “the big stories will be found in data, and whether we can find them or not will depend on our sophistication using large datasets.”

2. AI can help improve the quality of dialogue online and help organizations better understand their readers' needs.

Given the increasing abuse and harassment found in online conversations, many publishers are backing away from allowing comments on articles. For the Times, the Perspective API tool developed by Jigsaw (part of Google’s parent company Alphabet), is creating an opportunity to encourage constructive discussions online by using machine learning to increase the efficiency of comment moderation. Previously, the Times could only moderate comments on 10 percent of articles. Now, the technology has allowed them to allow commenting on all articles.

The Times is also thinking about using AI to increase the relevance of what they deliver to readers. As Rockwell notes, “Our readers have always looked to us to filter the world, but to do that only through editorial curation is a one-size-fits-all approach. There is a lot we can do to better serve them.”

3. Applying journalistic standards is essential to AI’s successful implementation in newsrooms

Both panelists agreed that the editorial standards that go into creating quality journalism should be applied to AI-fueled journalism. As Francesco Marconi, the author of the AP report, remarked, “Humans make mistakes. Algorithms make mistakes. All the editorial standards should be applied to the technology.”

Here are a few approaches we’ve seen for how those standards can be applied to the technology:

  • Pairing up journalists with the tech. At the AP, business journalists trained software to understand how to write an earnings report.
  • Serving as editorial gatekeepers. News editors should play a role in synthesizing and framing the information AI produces.
  • Ensuring more inclusive reporting. In 2016, Google.org, USC and the Geena Davis Foundation used machine learning to create a tool that collects data on gender portrayals in media.

What’s ahead

What will it take for AI to be a positive force in journalism? The conversation showed that while the path wasn’t certain, getting to the right answers would require close collaboration between the technology industry, news organizations, and journalists.

“There is a lot of work to do, but it’s about the mindset,” D’Aniello said. “Technology was seen as a disruptor of the newsroom, and it was difficult to introduce things. I don’t think this is the case anymore. The urgency and the need is perceived at the editorial level.”

We look forward to continuing to host more conversations on important topics like this one. Learn more about the Google News Lab on our website.

Header image of robotic camera courtesy of Associated Press.

More ads transparency for publishers

Publishers are the backbone of the open web—the content creators, journalists, amateur videographers and our go-to guides for information. Fifteen years ago, we decided to help publishers make money from their content by starting AdSense, our first publisher platform. And today, our ad platforms are used by millions of publishers, large and small, as a way to grow their businesses. In 2016, we paid out more than $11 billion to our publisher partners from advertising.

Policies play an important role in protecting the open web. They ensure publishers have a sustainable way to make money through our ads platforms, setting rules about what we do and don’t allow. For example, publishers can’t just have a site full of ads. Our policies exist to balance publishers’ needs with those of our users, advertisers and all of the parties that depend on it to keep the open web going.

One of the top requests we hear from publishers is that they want more transparency about how we respond to policy violations on their content. They want more information about why we remove ads on their websites and more help to resolve issues quickly, minimizing the impact on their bottom line.

Today we’re announcing two updates, based on direct feedback from publishers, to how our policies are enforced and communicated to publishers.

Policy actions at the page level

We’re introducing a new technology for policy violations that allows us to act more quickly and more precisely when we need to remove ads from content that violates our policies. Historically, for most policy violations, we remove all ads from a publisher’s site. As we roll out page-level policy action as the new default for content violations, we’ll be able to stop showing ads on select pages, while leaving ads up on the rest of a site’s good content. We’ll still use site-level actions but only as needed. And when it's necessary, such as in the case of egregious or persistent violations, we'll still terminate publishers. Altogether, this means fewer disruptions for publishers. 

A new Policy Center for publishers that use AdSense

We’re also announcing a new Policy Center as a one-stop shop for everything a publisher needs to know about policy actions that affect their sites and pages. We have been piloting this Policy Center with thousands of AdSense publishers, who have been very positive about these changes—and provided great feedback and suggestions on how to make the Policy Center more useful.

In just a few weeks, all AdSense publishers will have more transparency about why policy actions were taken and the violations found, including page-level action data, so they can quickly resolve these issues across all their sites and pages using step-by-step instructions. The Policy Center also makes it easy for publishers to tell us when policy issues have been resolved and their pages are ready for review.  

Later this year, we’ll be adding policy centers in other publisher platforms in addition to AdSense.

With this launch, we’re moving two steps closer to our goal of making it easier to understand how our policies work so that publishers can drive their businesses forward, using Google ad platforms.  

Want to score this playoff season? Shoot over to Search and Newsstand

Playoff season is in full swing. Whether your eyes are glued to the ice for the NHL Stanley Cup or geared up for a fastbreak during the NBA Finals, you can stay in the know with your favorite teams right in Play Newsstand and with posts in Google Search.

Check out Play Newsstand this playoff season, where you can get a play-by-play of all the action. Starting today, Newsstand will feature special NBA and Stanley Cup Playoffs sections, which will bring you the latest updates from thousands of local and national news sources in one place. You’ll also catch real-time updates directly from the leagues and the teams. These new Playoff sections make it easy to catch the top headlines, then dive into the latest scores, analyses and videos about your favorite teams, including their own posts to Google. Make Play Newsstand your #1 pick at the Play and App Stores, or pick it up on waiver at newsstand.google.com.

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But that’s not all. Now you can get the latest updates, videos, photos and more right on the Knowledge Panels in Search directly from some of your favorite NHL and NBA teams. In those posts, you’ll see the highlights that your home team (or rivals!) share. Check back throughout the day and week to make sure you don’t miss a thing. (No need for you baseball fans to balk, we’ve completed the triple play with posts from the MLB and all its teams too.)

Giddy for a GIF of that buzzer-beater? Look no further than Google Search. Whether you’re a citizen of #DubNation in the Bay or charging for the Bulls, you’ll have access to posts all across the court in the span of a 20-second timeout.

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Want to see that puck hit the net? From assist to Zamboni, skating through updates from more than 30 teams across the NHL has never been smoother. A quick search on Google brings up an all-star lineup of content from the teams you care about across the U.S. and Canada—get the news before your buddies for a real power play. No need to drop your gloves, you can even do a voice search on your phone.

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Don’t score an own-goal: Take the ball or the puck and search for your team. The race to the Finals is on!!

Fact Check now available in Google Search and News around the world

Google was built to help people find useful information by surfacing the great content that publishers and sites create. This access to high quality information is what drives people to use the web and for contributors to continue to engage and invest in it.

However, with thousands of new articles published online every minute of every day, the amount of content confronting people online can be overwhelming.  And unfortunately, not all of it is factual or true, making it hard for people to distinguish fact from fiction. That’s why last October, along with our partners at Jigsaw, we announced that in a few countries we would start enabling publishers to show a “Fact Check” tag in Google News for news stories. This label identifies articles that include information fact checked by news publishers and fact-checking organizations.

After assessing feedback from both users and publishers, we’re making the Fact Check label in Google News available everywhere, and expanding it into Search globally in all languages. For the first time, when you conduct a search on Google that returns an authoritative result containing fact checks for one or more public claims, you will see that information clearly on the search results page. The snippet will display information on the claim, who made the claim, and the fact check of that particular claim.

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This information won’t be available for every search result, and there may be search result pages where different publishers checked the same claim and reached different conclusions. These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgements. Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree. As we make fact checks more visible in Search results, we believe people will have an easier time reviewing and assessing these fact checks, and making their own informed opinions.

For publishers to be included in this feature, they must be using the Schema.org ClaimReview markup on the specific pages where they fact check public statements (documentation here), or they can use the Share the Facts widget developed by the Duke University Reporters Lab and Jigsaw. Only publishers that are algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information will qualify for inclusion. Finally, the content must adhere to the general policies that apply to all structured data markup, the Google News Publisher criteria for fact checks, and the standards for accountability and transparency, readability or proper site representation as articulated in our Google News General Guidelines. If a publisher or fact check claim does not meet these standards or honor these policies, we may, at our discretion, ignore that site's markup.

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This effort wouldn’t be possible without the help of other organizations and the fact check community, which has grown to 115 organizations. To find out more about this new feature, visit the Help Center.

Data Journalism Awards 2017: Call for submissions

With trust in journalism under attack, data journalism has never been more vital. And this year, for the sixth consecutive year, we’re proud to support the 2017 Data Journalism Awards.

But you need to get your skates on: The deadline is fast approaching for the only global awards recognizing work that brings together data, visualization and storytelling to produce some of the most innovative journalism out in the world today.

It’s a part of our commitment to supporting innovative journalism both in Europe and around the world.
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Past winners of the $1,801 prizes include the New York Times, Buzzfeed, FiveThirtyEight, Quartz and IndiaSpend. 2017 hopefuls don’t have long: the deadline for this year’s awards is April 7, 2017 at midnight GMT.

And if you’re wondering why the prize is $1,801? That’s because in 1801 William Playfair invented the pie chart.

Aimed at newsrooms and journalists in organizations of all sizes—big and small—the #DJA2016 awards will recognize the best work in key categories, including:

  • Data visualisation of the year

  • Investigation of the year

  • News data app of the year

  • Data journalism website of the year

  • The Chartbeat award for the best use of data in a breaking news story, within first 36 hours

  • Open data award

  • Small newsrooms (one or more winners)

  • Student and young data journalist of the year

  • Best individual portfolio

The competition is organized by the Global Editors Network: a cross-platform community of editors-in-chief and media innovators committed to high-quality journalism, with the support of Google and the Knight Foundation. For Google, the Data Journalism Awards offer another way for foster innovation through partnership with the news industry, in addition to our efforts through the Digital News Initiative and the work of the Google News Lab teams around the world.

Data journalists, editors and publishers are encouraged to submit their work for consideration by joining the GEN community via this form by April 7 at midnight GMT. A jury of peers from the publishing community, including new jury members Esra Doğramacı from Deutsche Welle and Data Journalism China’s Yolanda Ma will choose the winners, which will be announced during a gala dinner at the Global Editors Network Summit in Vienna on June 22.

Good luck!

Simon Rogers is Data Editor at Google’s News Lab and Director of the Data Journalism Awards

More news in Google News & Weather

The world of news is broad, deep and ever-changing. The News & Weather app shows the top three stories from various sections on its Home page, but beneath this surface lie many more informative and engaging stories. In fact, we find that many people regularly hit the bottom of our Home page looking for more to read. To offer you further opportunities to discover great content, we’ve added over 200 news stories to the Home screen in a browsable stream called More Headlines

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Get a deeper view into the latest from Business, Tech, Entertainment, Sports and various other sections, ranked and classified for easy reading. The More Headlines section loads stories on demand as you keep scrolling, quenching your thirst for news.

You’ll also enjoy fast-loading AMP articles, as an increasing number of publishers adopt the AMP format. As usual, each story retains the goodness of a comprehensive perspective—expand a card to gain insight from different articles such as Highly Cited, Local Source and Fact Check. Everything stays algorithmic—from clustering articles to classifying stories to ranking the stream.

More Headlines will be rolled out over the coming days to News & Weather users on iOS and Android. To see it in action, read through the Home sections and simply keep going.

Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund: Call for third round applications

In 2016, the Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund, our €150 million commitment to supporting innovation in the European news industry, offered EUR 51m to 252 ambitious projects in digital journalism across 27 countries. Today, we’re thrilled to open the Fund for a third round of applications

From the outset, we designed the Fund to provide no-strings-attached awards to those in the news industry looking for some room (and budget) to experiment. Why are we doing this? Because at Google we know from experience that the biggest, boldest ideas often start small. Through the DNI Fund we want to give new approaches the freedom to experiment--and maybe even to soar.

We’ve been impressed by both the number and the quality of the applications we’ve received in the first two rounds of funding, and are proud to have funded hundreds including many committed to the important challenges around fact-checking and verification of content. More on past projects can be found on our NEW website, launched today at digitalnewsinitiative.com. To give time for aspiring applicants to prepare, this season’s application round will be open for the next six weeks, ending 20th April.

We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news. Last round we issued a call for collaboration--across industry and across the region--and of course we’d love to see this trend continue. As a focus for this round, we’d also encourage applicants to explore new areas of monetisation to potentially unlock new revenue streams for the industry.

The Digital News Initiative, which began as a partnership between Google and a small handful of  European news organisations, has grown into an ecosystem of more than 180 now working together to support high quality journalism through technology and innovation, including the open-sourced Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, and the dedicated YouTube Player for Publishers, being used on news sites across Europe. The DNI  initiative is open to anyone involved in Europe’s digital news industry, large or small, established or newcomer.

DNI Family

Here’s a quick reminder of how the Fund works:

Projects

We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news. Projects can be highly experimental, but must have well-defined goals and have a significant digital component. There is absolutely no requirement to use any Google products. Successful projects will show innovation and have a positive impact on the production of original digital journalism and on the long-term sustainability of the news business.

Eligibility

The Fund is open to established publishers, online-only players, news start-ups, collaborative partnerships and individuals based in the EU and EFTA countries.

Funding

There are three categories of funding available:

  • Prototype projects: open to organisations - and to individuals - that meet the eligibility criteria, and require up to €50k of funding. These projects should be very early stage, with ideas yet to be designed and assumptions yet to be tested. We will fast-track such projects and will fund 100% of the total cost.

  • Medium projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require up to €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project.

  • Large projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require more than €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project. Funding is capped at €1 million.

Exceptions to the €1 million cap are possible for large projects that are collaborative (e.g., international, sector-wide, involving multiple organisations) or that significantly benefit the broad news ecosystem.

How to apply

Visit the new Digital News Initiative website for full details, including eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, and application forms. Applications must be made in English and the submission deadline for the first round of funding is 20th April, 2017.

Governance

We’ve consulted widely to ensure that the Fund has inclusive and transparent application and selection processes. Confidentiality is critical; applicants should not share business-sensitive or highly confidential information. Full details can be found on the DNI website.

Initial selection of projects will be done by a Project team, composed of a mix of experienced industry figures and Google staff, who will review all applications for eligibility, innovation and impact. They’ll make recommendations on funding for Prototype and Medium projects to the Fund’s Council, which will have oversight of the Fund’s selection process. The Council will vote on Large projects.

Council members:

  • Joao Palmeiro, President of the Portuguese publishers association and Chair of the DNI Innovation Fund Council

  • Alexander Asseily, Founder & CEO of State, Founder of Jawbone

  • Miriam Meckel, Editor-in-Chief of WirtschaftsWoche

  • Arianna Ciccone, Co-Founder and Director of the Perugia International Journalism Festival

  • Bartosz Hojka, CEO of Agora S.A.

  • Veit Dengler, CEO, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • Rosalia Lloret, Head of Institutional Relations, Online Publishers’ Association Europe

  • Bruno Patino, Dean of Sciences-Po Journalism School

  • Murdoch MacLennan, CEO of the Telegraph Media Group

  • Bart Brouwers, Professor in Journalism at Groningen University

  • Madhav Chinnappa, Director of Strategic Relations, News and Publishers, Google

  • Torsten Schuppe, Director of Marketing EMEA, Google

  • Ronan Harris, Vice President, Google

We will announce the next recipients of these awards before the start of the summer holidays. We look forward to receiving your https://digitalnewsinitiative.com/dni-fund/apply-for-fundingapplications!

Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund: Call for third round applications

In 2016, the Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund, our €150 million commitment to supporting innovation in the European news industry, offered EUR 51m to 252 ambitious projects in digital journalism across 27 countries. Today, we’re thrilled to open the Fund for a third round of applications

From the outset, we designed the Fund to provide no-strings-attached awards to those in the news industry looking for some room (and budget) to experiment. Why are we doing this? Because at Google we know from experience that the biggest, boldest ideas often start small. Through the DNI Fund we want to give new approaches the freedom to experiment--and maybe even to soar.

We’ve been impressed by both the number and the quality of the applications we’ve received in the first two rounds of funding, and are proud to have funded hundreds including many committed to the important challenges around fact-checking and verification of content. More on past projects can be found on our NEW website, launched today at digitalnewsinitiative.com. To give time for aspiring applicants to prepare, this season’s application round will be open for the next six weeks, ending 20th April.

We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news. Last round we issued a call for collaboration--across industry and across the region--and of course we’d love to see this trend continue. As a focus for this round, we’d also encourage applicants to explore new areas of monetisation to potentially unlock new revenue streams for the industry.

The Digital News Initiative, which began as a partnership between Google and a small handful of  European news organisations, has grown into an ecosystem of more than 180 now working together to support high quality journalism through technology and innovation, including the open-sourced Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, and the dedicated YouTube Player for Publishers, being used on news sites across Europe. The DNI  initiative is open to anyone involved in Europe’s digital news industry, large or small, established or newcomer.

DNI Family

Here’s a quick reminder of how the Fund works:

Projects

We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news. Projects can be highly experimental, but must have well-defined goals and have a significant digital component. There is absolutely no requirement to use any Google products. Successful projects will show innovation and have a positive impact on the production of original digital journalism and on the long-term sustainability of the news business.

Eligibility

The Fund is open to established publishers, online-only players, news start-ups, collaborative partnerships and individuals based in the EU and EFTA countries.

Funding

There are three categories of funding available:

  • Prototype projects: open to organisations - and to individuals - that meet the eligibility criteria, and require up to €50k of funding. These projects should be very early stage, with ideas yet to be designed and assumptions yet to be tested. We will fast-track such projects and will fund 100% of the total cost.

  • Medium projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require up to €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project.

  • Large projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require more than €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project. Funding is capped at €1 million.

Exceptions to the €1 million cap are possible for large projects that are collaborative (e.g., international, sector-wide, involving multiple organisations) or that significantly benefit the broad news ecosystem.

How to apply

Visit the new Digital News Initiative website for full details, including eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, and application forms. Applications must be made in English and the submission deadline for the first round of funding is 20th April, 2017.

Governance

We’ve consulted widely to ensure that the Fund has inclusive and transparent application and selection processes. Confidentiality is critical; applicants should not share business-sensitive or highly confidential information. Full details can be found on the DNI website.

Initial selection of projects will be done by a Project team, composed of a mix of experienced industry figures and Google staff, who will review all applications for eligibility, innovation and impact. They’ll make recommendations on funding for Prototype and Medium projects to the Fund’s Council, which will have oversight of the Fund’s selection process. The Council will vote on Large projects.

Council members:

  • Joao Palmeiro, President of the Portuguese publishers association and Chair of the DNI Innovation Fund Council

  • Alexander Asseily, Founder & CEO of State, Founder of Jawbone

  • Miriam Meckel, Editor-in-Chief of WirtschaftsWoche

  • Arianna Ciccone, Co-Founder and Director of the Perugia International Journalism Festival

  • Bartosz Hojka, CEO of Agora S.A.

  • Veit Dengler, CEO, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • Rosalia Lloret, Head of Institutional Relations, Online Publishers’ Association Europe

  • Bruno Patino, Dean of Sciences-Po Journalism School

  • Murdoch MacLennan, CEO of the Telegraph Media Group

  • Bart Brouwers, Professor in Journalism at Groningen University

  • Madhav Chinnappa, Director of Strategic Relations, News and Publishers, Google

  • Torsten Schuppe, Director of Marketing EMEA, Google

  • Ronan Harris, Vice President, Google

We will announce the next funding recipients before the start of the summer holidays. We look forward to receiving your https://digitalnewsinitiative.com/dni-fund/apply-for-fundingapplications!

When computers learn to swear: Using machine learning for better online conversations

Imagine trying to have a conversation with your friends about the news you read this morning, but every time you said something, someone shouted in your face, called you a nasty name or accused you of some awful crime. You’d probably leave the conversation. Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently online as people try to discuss ideas on their favorite news sites but instead get bombarded with toxic comments.  

Seventy-two percent of American internet users have witnessed harassment online and nearly half have personally experienced it. Almost a third self-censor what they post online for fear of retribution. According to the same report, online harassment has affected the lives of roughly 140 million people in the U.S., and many more elsewhere.

This problem doesn’t just impact online readers. News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content, but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labor, and time. As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether. But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want. We think technology can help.

Today, Google and Jigsaw are launching Perspective, an early-stage technology that uses machine learning to help identify toxic comments. Through an API, publishers—including members of the Digital News Initiative—and platforms can access this technology and use it for their sites.

How it works

Perspective reviews comments and scores them based on how similar they are to comments people said were “toxic” or likely to make someone leave a conversation. To learn how to spot potentially toxic language, Perspective examined hundreds of thousands of comments that had been labeled by human reviewers. Each time Perspective finds new examples of potentially toxic comments, or is provided with corrections from users, it can get better at scoring future comments.

Publishers can choose what they want to do with the information they get from Perspective. For example, a publisher could flag comments for its own moderators to review and decide whether to include them in a conversation. Or a publisher could provide tools to help their community understand the impact of what they are writing—by, for example, letting the commenter see the potential toxicity of their comment as they write it. Publishers could even just allow readers to sort comments by toxicity themselves, making it easier to find great discussions hidden under toxic ones.

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We’ve been testing a version of this technology with The New York Times, where an entire team sifts through and moderates each comment before it’s posted—reviewing an average of 11,000 comments every day. That’s a lot of comments. As a result the Times has comments on only about 10 percent of its articles. We’ve worked together to train models that allows Times moderators to sort through comments more quickly, and we’ll work with them to enable comments on more articles every day.

Where we go from here

Perspective joins the TensorFlow library and the Cloud Machine Learning Platform as one of many new machine learning resources Google has made available to developers. This technology is still developing. But that’s what’s so great about machine learning—even though the models are complex, they’ll improve over time. When Perspective is in the hands of publishers, it will be exposed to more comments and develop a better understanding of what makes certain comments toxic.

While we improve the technology, we’re also working to expand it. Our first model is designed to spot toxic language, but over the next year we’re keen to partner and deliver new models that work in languages other than English as well as models that can identify other perspectives, such as when comments are unsubstantial or off-topic.

In the long run, Perspective is about more than just improving comments. We hope we can help improve conversations online.