Tag Archives: Google in Europe

Fighting disinformation across our products

Providing useful and trusted information at the scale that the Internet has reached is enormously complex and an important responsibility. Adding to that complexity, over the last several years we’ve seen organized campaigns use online platforms to deliberately spread false or misleading information.

We have twenty years of experience in these information challenges and it's what we strive to do better than anyone else. So while we have more work to do, we’ve been working hard to combat this challenge for many years.

Today at the Munich Security Conference, we presented a white paper that gives more detail about our work to tackle the intentional spread of misinformation—across Google Search, Google News, YouTube and our advertising systems. We have a significant effort dedicated to this work throughout the company, based on three foundational pillars:

  • Improve our products so they continue to make quality count;
  • Counteract malicious actors seeking to spread disinformation;
  • Give people context about the information they see.

The white paper also explains how we work beyond our products to support a healthy journalistic ecosystem, partner with civil society and researchers, and stay one step ahead of future risks.

We hope this paper and increased transparency can lead to more dialogue about what we and others can do better on these issues. We're committed to acting responsibly and thoroughly as we tackle this important challenge.

Now is the time to fix the EU copyright directive

In the next few days, European legislators meet to decide on a final text of the European Copyright Directive. We continue to support updating copyright legislation for the digital age. With the right rules, content creators, right holders, consumers, and platforms all benefit. The draft text continues to generate debate—and we have shared our concerns about its unintended consequences. It’s clear that the details matter in crafting a workable system.

Let’s start with Article 13. The Parliament's version would hold internet services directly liable for any copyright infringement in the content that people share on their platforms. We stand by our conviction that the draft rules aren’t carefully balanced, and would harm the thriving creative economy in Europe, including YouTube’s creator community.

Companies that act reasonably in helping rights holders identify and control the use of their content shouldn’t be held liable for anything a user uploads, any more than a telephone company should be liable for the content of conversations. We are committed to protecting content, but we need rights holders to cooperate in that process. The final text should make it clear that rights holders need to provide reference files of content, and copyright notices with key information (like URLs), so that platforms can identify and remove infringing content.

Then there's Article 11. We reiterate our commitment to supporting high-quality journalism. However, the recent debate shows that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of headlines and snippets—very short previews of what someone will find when he or she clicks a link. Reducing the length of the snippets to just a few individual words or short extracts will make it harder for consumers to discover news content and reduce overall traffic to news publishers.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Every year, we run thousands of experiments in Search. We recently ran one in the EU to understand the impact of the proposed Article 11 if we could show only URLs, very short fragments of headlines, and no preview images. All versions of the experiment resulted in substantial traffic loss to news publishers.

Even a moderate version of the experiment (where we showed the publication title, URL, and video thumbnails) led to a 45 percent reduction in traffic to news publishers. Our experiment demonstrated that many users turned instead to non-news sites, social media platforms, and online video sites—another unintended consequence of legislation that aims to support high-quality journalism. Searches on Google even increased as users sought alternate ways to find information.

There’s a better way forward. Instead of a sweeping rule banning the use of even “individual words” or “very short extracts” without a specific contract, Article 11 should permit the sharing of facts and the use of traditional limited previews—whether text-based snippets or other visual formats like thumbnail photos—which provide needed context for web users.

Together with ensuring that publishers retain the freedom to grant free licenses for their content, the continued use of snippets will encourage viewers to click through to publishers’ sites. It’s not realistic to expect that online services would be able to put commercial licenses in place with every single news publisher. If it’s only payment, and not quality, that decides which headlines users get to see, the results would be bad for both users and smaller and emerging publishers.

Some claim this debate is all about big tech companies. But we are not alone in our concerns. Small publishers, civil rights organizations, academics, start-ups, creators, and consumers—with over 4.5 million people signing a Change.org petition that asks legislators to reconsider the Directive—all agree that the stakes are high, and the details matter. We recognize that a number of EU member states have also raised important questions. We call upon policy makers to listen to their ideas, and to find a solution that promotes rather than limits the creative economy.

Meet the teams keeping our corner of the internet safer

I joined Google a year ago to lead its Trust and Safety organisation and to work with the thousands of people working to protect our users and make our products, from Gmail to Maps, more safe.

Deciding what content is allowed on our platforms, while preserving people’s right to express themselves freely at the colossal scale we operate is a big responsibility. It means developing rules that we can enforce consistently on much-debated lines. It means balancing respect for diverse viewpoints and giving a platform to marginalised voices, while developing thoughtful policies to tackle egregious content. These values can often be in tension and the calls we make can be controversial. We feel the weight of our responsibility here and the impact of our decisions keenly.

Our teams tackle a huge spectrum of online abuse, from petty scams, like the email from a “relative” stranded abroad needing a bank transfer to get home safely, to the utterly abhorrent, including child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online. We work across products like Search, which connects people to information hosted on the web, as well as across products we host, like Photos. Understanding the different parameters of the products we serve is vital to our work and policy development. Given that breadth, our team is diverse, comprising product specialists, engineers, lawyers, data scientists, ex-law enforcement officials and others. They work hand-in-hand around the world and with a global network of safety and subject matter experts.

Our goal in the Trust and Safety team is to achieve both accuracy and scale in our work. That’s why we have people and technology working together—and we invest heavily in both. More and more, we use smart technology to detect problematic content hosted on our platforms, which is driving progress. Take violent extremism online. Where once we relied heavily on users to flag this content to us, today the majority of terrorist content we remove on Google products is first identified by our machines. We can then send this content to our language and subject matter experts, who swiftly and accurately review and remove content. We’ve also built systems that allow us to work in partnership with NGOs, other tech companies, and government Internet Referral Units, like Europol, to alert us to potentially problematic content.

Other issues, like combating hate speech, require a different approach. I’m proud of the strong progress we’re making to tackle online hate, including through the European Commission’s Code of Conduct on hate speech. We’ve improved our speed and accuracy of review by creating a dedicated team of language specialists in the EU. But there are many distinct challenges here. Standards for what constitutes hate speech vary between countries, as does the language and slang that’s used. Making meaningful progress through automatic detection will take time, but we’re putting our best technology and people to the task.

To give a sense of the scale of our efforts, in 2017, our team pulled down 3.2 billion ads that broke our policies; they also blocked 79 million ads designed  to trick you into clicking on malware-laden sites. Between July and September 2018, YouTube removed over 7 million videos that broke its rules and blocked 224 million comments. Across other products like Drive, Photos and Blogger, in the past year, we took down over 38,000 pieces of hate speech and 160,000 pieces of violent extremism content. We also support tools like SafeSearch, which help you avoid explicit Search results.

None of this work can be done in isolation and our partnerships are essential. Nor can our policies be static—we must be responsive to the world around us and take the guidance of experts. That’s why I’m in Brussels this week to share insights from our work in content moderation and to listen and learn from others. The message I’ll bring from Google is that we will be more transparent, accountable and frank about where we can improve.  I have no doubt that 2019 will bring more challenges but rest assured that we will dedicate all the resources necessary to do our part. We’ll do all that we can, through technology and people, to meet and overcome the many challenges we face online, and to think beyond our corner of the internet.

Editor’s note:  Kristie Canegallo is speaking at CoMo Brussels, a conference about content moderation held at the European Parliament. Kristie’s background is in government, where she worked under Presidents Bush and Obama in a range of national security and domestic policy  roles, including as President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

An update on our work to prevent abuse ahead of the EU elections

Concerns about disinformation run high ahead of elections, a time when secure access to authoritative information is essential. Over the past few years, as more attempts to disrupt democratic processes have come to light, the scale of our response has increased. The upcoming European Parliament elections in May of this year are a big focus for our teams.

Dedicated elections teams clamping down on abuse

Our work to prevent election-related abuse ahead of and during elections means teams and subject matter experts across Google are working closely together. These teams, many of whom are based in Europe, are trained to identify and stop a wide range of potential abuse that can range from State Sponsored phishing attacks to attempts to alter Maps so people can’t find their polling station. We’re also constantly working to get people to authoritative content and improving our systems to combat the effects of disinformation. We’re staffed so we can get ahead of abuse, clamp down on malicious activity, and react rapidly to breaking threats. Google’s Trust & Safety teams have long worked in partnership with Google Security’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) and our partners at Jigsaw to identify malicious actors, disable their accounts, warn our users about them, and share intelligence with other companies and law enforcement officials.

Project Shield for political campaigns, journalists and NGOs in Europe

Journalists, campaigns and political parties, NGOs and election monitoring groups ensure people can stay informed during election periods. It’s never been more necessary to defend these groups from digital attacks that can exploit many thousands of computers to overwhelm a website’s servers and take it offline—preventing voters from getting official information when they need it most. Project Shield uses Google’s infrastructure to protect independent news sites from distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) and from today, Jigsaw will be offering strong, free DDoS-protections to the organizations across Europe that are vital to free and fair elections. You can find out more about Jigsaw and apply for Shield protection here.

In-person security training from Google experts

Because it can be hard to know how to be safe online, we’re running in-person and online security trainings for those most at risk around the upcoming elections. Like how to use our Advanced Protection Program, which gives Google’s strongest security for those that need it most. So far we’ve trained close to 1,000 campaign and election officials, journalists and people from election-related NGOs in Europe in-person, so they can learn which security tools they need and how to use them. Our goal is to support these groups in keeping their information secure and enable them to publish freely so that people can access the stories, debates, policies and results when it matters most.

A new verification process for advertisers in the EU parliamentary election

People want to better understand the political advertising they see online, so we’re introducing a new policy and process to verify advertisers for the EU parliamentary election.  Anyone wanting to run EU parliamentary election ads on Google’s platforms must provide documentation to show they’re an EU-based entity or citizen of an EU member country - and we will provide disclosures on each ad to make it clear to voters who’s paying for the advertising. This includes ads for political organisations, political parties, political issue advocacy or fundraising, and individual candidates and politicians.

There’s more to come: in a few months’ time, we’ll introduce an EU Election Ads Transparency Report and a searchable ad library to make this information as accessible and useful as possible to users, practitioners, and researchers wanting to know more.

Supporting elections in Europe and around the world is hugely important to us. We’ll continue to work in partnership with the EU through its Code of Practice on Disinformation, including by publishing regular reports about our work to prevent abuse, as well as with governments, law enforcement, others in our industry and the NGO community to strengthen protections around elections, protect users, and help combat disinformation.

This is how we coded: a recap of Europe & Africa Code Weeks

Computer Science (CS) education is critical to preparing students for the new global economy, but unfortunately many young people lack the opportunity to develop these technical skills. As part of our commitment to help one million Europeans find jobs or grow their businesses by 2020 and to train 10 million Africans by 2022, we want to change that. 

That's why this October, we supported Europe Code Weekfor the fifth consecutive year, and Africa Code Week for the third consecutive year, funding 76 education organizations in 33 countries. Over the course of the two weeks, we worked with 166,000 students (56% of whom were girls) and 4,600 teachers to help them develop the skills to get involved in computer science.

This year at Europe Code Week, a grassroots movement started by the European Commission, we funded 25 organizations in 21 countries which all together inspired 77,000 students in computer science.

In Africa, we joined forces with SAP and Africa Code Week to fund 53 organizations and grassroots groups across 11 countries. Over 107,000 students were able to explore computer science through a variety of fun and interactive workshops.

We’re glad to have helped these students gain coding experience in Europe and Africa and look forward to inspiring even more students in 2019.

Find a better balance with our tips for Digital Wellbeing

A good tool should make your life easier. That’s as true in the digital world as it is anywhere else. Today, people use digital tools to simplify and speed up tasks from finding a playground for their children to checking the weather forecast, giving them more space to focus on what matters most to them. Technology is transforming the way we spend time, and our Digital Wellbeing efforts can help you make the most of that time—so that technology fits comfortably into your life, without the unwanted distractions. On Pixel, Android, YouTube, Family Link and Gmail, we’ve already released new tools and features to help people better balance their lives. But our products are only part of the story.

To get the word out about healthy habits, we created a new series of Digital Wellbeing videos as part of Google’s Digital Workshop. Each video encourages you to think about how you use technology and suggests ways to find the right balance for you. Because Digital Wellbeing means something different for each of us, we’ve partnered with a team of psychologists, anthropologists and mindfulness experts. There are medical professionals, like Mario Alonso Puig, recognized worldwide for his studies on brain activity, and educators like Greta Rossi, co-founder of Recipes for Wellbeing. By drawing on each of their perspectives, the series takes an honest look at the way we live with tech, from how smartphone notifications affect productivity, to exploring how to set physical boundaries for  technology use, and the ways you can become more self-aware of your online habits.

This course is just the beginning of a wide range of educational materials we’re working on, covering topics from how kids use technology to how to manage mobile phone usage. In the coming months, we’ll make the new course available in more than 30 languages across 64 countries.The next time you need to find a better balance–whether you want to disconnect on your vacation or reduce the number of distractions in your day—check out the videos.

Some changes to our service model in Europe

Today, we started notifying our users in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland about some changes we’re making to how we provide our services.  These changes will be reflected in updates to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy that you can read now, but that will come into effect on January 22, 2019.

The first change we’re making is that for users based in the EEA and Switzerland, Google Ireland Limited—based in Dublin, where Google has its European headquarters—will become the “service provider” responsible for most of our consumer services, from Search to Gmail to Maps and beyond. These changes will be reflected in our general Terms of Service, where the “service provider” that offers these services is currently Google LLC, based in the U.S. We are also making similar changes in the separate terms for Drive, Play, YouTube, and YouTube Paid Service.

We’re also making a number of updates to Google’s Privacy Policy. The most important of these is that Google Ireland Limited will become the “data controller” legally responsible for EEA and Swiss users’ information. This means that Google Ireland Limited becomes responsible for responding to requests for its user data, including from EU law enforcement, consistent with Irish law. It is also responsible for compliance with applicable privacy laws, including Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

We’re making the data controller change to facilitate engagement with EU data protection authorities via the GDPR’s “One Stop Shop” mechanism, which was created to ensure consistency of regulatory decisions for companies and EU citizens.

It’s important to note these changes do not in any way alter how our products work or how we collect or process user data within our services. Nothing changes about your current settings, and you will continue to have granular control over the data you share with us when you use our services. And of course, we remain fully committed to compliance with the GDPR across all of the services we provide in the European Union.

Proposed copyright rules: bad for small publishers, European consumers and online services

Copyright rules give news publishers rights over how their work is used. Europe is updating these rules for this digital age, and that’s a move Google supports. But the European Parliament’s version of a new copyright directive -specifically Article 11 and its recital 32- will have unintended consequences for smaller news publishers, limit innovation in journalism and reduce choice for European consumers. We urgently call on policymakers to fix this in the final text of the directive.

Let us be clear on one thing: Article 11 seeks to protect journalists and their work, and we agree with that goal. We care deeply about supporting the broader news industry because journalism is critical to the functioning of a free democracy. And we built Google to provide everyone with equal access to information.

However, Article 11 could change that principle and require online services to strike commercial deals with publishers to show hyperlinks and short snippets of news. This means that search engines, news aggregators, apps, and platforms would have to put commercial licences in place, and make decisions about which content to include on the basis of those licensing agreements and which to leave out.

Effectively, companies like Google will be put in the position of picking winners and losers. Online services, some of which generate no revenue (for instance, Google News) would have to make choices about which publishers they’d do deals with. Presently, more than 80,000 news publishers around the world can show up in Google News, but Article 11 would sharply reduce that number. And this is not just about Google, it’s unlikely any business will be able to license every single news publisher in the European Union, especially given the very broad definition being proposed.

This would mostly benefit larger players. One analysis hasforecast that in Germany, small publishers would receive less than 1% of the revenue generated by a so-called ancillary copyright -- whereas the largest publishing group alone would receive 64%. Smaller newsrooms and overall online news diversity will be impacted as a result.

Because so much of the conversation in Brussels is driven by larger publishing organizations, the small publishers who raise this concern are not heard. Why are large influential companies constraining how new and small publishers operate? Particularly at a time when news business models continue to evolve, new, small, and innovative publishers need flexibility. The proposed rules will undoubtedly hurt diversity of voices, with large publishers setting business models for the whole industry. This will not benefit all equally.

Not only might this harm individual news publishers, it also seriously risks reducing consumers’ ability to discover and access a diversity of views and opinions. Unlike people in other parts of the world, European citizens may no longer find the most relevant news across the web, but rather the news that online services have been able to commercially license. We believe the information we show should be based on quality, not on payment. And we believe it’s not in the interest of European citizens to change that.

Today we drive economic value to publishers by sending people to news sites over 10 billion times a month. That free traffic has enabled many smaller or emerging publishers to get discovered, grow a business, and find success online. A Deloitte study found that each user visit was worth on average between €0.04 and €0.08 to publishers. That means real business value to European publishers, every year.

We recognize the news industry is undergoing substantial change as publishers around the world transition to digital. We’ve been working with EU institutions to develop workable solutions that benefit journalists and publishers. We’ve invested in creating tools to help publishers increase subscription revenue and enable mobile sites to be much faster, so that they can grow their audiences and their revenue. Thousands of news publishers use Google advertising services where they retain 70% and more of the revenue that’s generated.

There is a way to avoid the unintended consequences of Article 11. The copyright directive should give all publishers the right to control their own business models and destiny by giving them the choice to waive the need for a commercial license for their content. Publishers – big and small – should continue to be able to make their own choices about how their content can be discovered and how they want to make money with that content. The exact language of the new rules is being determined in the next few weeks. Now is not the time to stifle innovation in news or limit access to quality journalism.

New partners and courses to develop tomorrow’s workforce

At Google, we’re committed to creating more opportunity for everyone. Through our Grow with Google initiative, we’ve trained 7.5 million people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa on digital skills since 2015. But we’re doing more than just training—we want to help people put these new skills to use, which is why we’ve also committed to helping 1 million Europeans find a job or grow their business by 2020.

To reach this commitment, we offer free online and offline courses through Google Digital Garage across 64 countries. Up until now, digital marketing has been the core of our training, but as the nature of work changes and the demand for a broader set of both technical and soft skills grows, we believe it’s critical to incorporate these skills into our programs.

New courses to help people succeed in the workplace

We're partnering with FutureLearn, The Open University, OpenClassrooms and Goodwill Community Foundation, leading providers of online education, to expand our current modules with new training on soft skills. These include social and emotional skills, such as communicating with others, motivating and influencing teams and colleagues, and making decisions under pressure; skills crucial for success in any career and increasingly valued by employers, according to the latest research from the World Economic Forum.

Here’s a closer look at the courses we're launching today:

  • Learn techniques for public speaking : Learn how to plan and deliver presentations that capture the attention of your listeners, whether it’s sharing a business plan or motivating your employees or colleagues.

  • Communicate your ideas through storytelling and design: Ideas become more powerful when they’re shared. This course will help you discover simple tools like mind maps, storyboards and storytelling to help you engage people with ideas.

  • Business communications: Learn how to craft clear, well-structured emails, presentations or reports.

  • Effective networking: Whether you’re running a business, looking for a job, or ready for that next career move, learning how to network is key. In this course, we will introduce you to the principles of networking, to help you develop your professional brand.

In the coming months, alongside our partners, we’ll make the new courses available on Google Digital Garage in more than 30 languages in 64 countries.

Get certified with Google Digital Garage

We know that when looking for a job, certifications are often essential in demonstrating acquired skills to potential employers. Today, The Open University, the largest academic institution in the UK, a leading European university, and a world leader in flexible distance learning, is adding their high-quality accreditation to our Google Digital Marketing Certificate. The certificate, already accredited by IAB Europe, provides jobseekers with a tangible way to demonstrate their skills, and is awarded to learners completing the free online training course available at Google Digital Garage.

By partnering with leading providers of online education, we are confident we will have a greater impact in helping learners and businesses gain new skills and training for the workplace. We look forward to expanding our collaboration with industry partners to help even more people grow their skills and see their careers or businesses thrive.

Supporting future computer scientists across Europe

Research shows that more than 65 percent of today’s students will work in jobs that don’t even exist yet—and those future roles will require a new set of digital skills. Over the past decade, the European Commission has made it a priority to increase access to learning programs that will help prepare people for these new jobs. Our Grow with Google initiative has been a part of that by helping 431,000 people across Europe learn new Computer Science (CS) skills.

But developing these new skills doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve caught up with a few of the teachers and students who have participated in Grow with Google’s efforts in Ireland, Romania and Germany to hear more about how these programs have impacted their computer science journeys.

Promoting learning in Ireland schools with Trinity Access 21 Program

Equipping teachers with better educational tools goes a long way to improve students’ digital skills. Since 2014, we’ve worked with Trinity College Dublin to design and launch a new postgraduate certificate in 21st Century Teaching and Learning for in-service teachers. The Trinity Access 21 Program provides workshops and hands-on sessions to help teachers deliver courses in beginner, intermediate and advanced level computer programming and computer systems. To date, more than 250 teachers have completed or are currently completing the postgraduate certificate, with more than 30 teachers progressing to Master’s and Ph.D. level studies.

Deirdre Brennan, a teacher who has been teaching science for over 17 years in Dublin, completed her 21st Century Teaching and Learning postgraduate certificate in 2017. She says: “The certificate gave me a framework and guidance for leading a tinkering-based coding club—which was teacher-facilitated and student-led—in my school at the time. This learning environment created an opportunity for my students to socialize and grow.”

Creating opportunities with Romania’s “Infoeducatie" CS contest

In Romania, we’ve worked with the Romanian Computer Science Teachers' Association (UPIR) for the past seven years to hold the annual Infoeducatie competition. Students across the country are invited to learn new skills and develop educational and utility software, web applications, multimedia projects and robots in order to win certificates and prizes. The final stage of the competition takes place every year at the Gălăciuc camp, where teams of contestants collaborate to design and build software applications.


Students at the Infoeducatie competition in Romania.

Competitions like Gălăciuc camp provide an opportunity for young people to receive feedback and recognition for their learning, and many participate more than once. Robert Dolca, now a software engineer working at Uber, competed in the event three times while in high school. He says, "For me, InfoEducatie has been an opportunity to challenge myself and learn. We met passionate and talented people, and we received constructive feedback on our projects.”

Inspiring young people to learn computer science with BwInf in Germany

Since 2010, we’ve worked with Bundeswettbewerb Informatik (BwInf), Germany's national CS competition, to introduce young people to the subject and inspire them to use digital technologies creatively. Jochen Eisinger, for example, competed in BwInf contests numerous times at school before deciding computer science was what he wanted to pursue at university. Today, he manages a number of teams working on Google Chrome. He credits the program with sparking his passion for computer science and confirming his choice to study it: "I learned about BwInf from a poster somebody put up in my school. Over the years, I learned more about computer science and finally won the finals of the 18th BwInf—after five years of trying!"


BwInf participants, visiting the Google office in Munich.

We're excited to see how these projects empower future generations of computer scientists. Interest in CS skills training continues to grow across the European continent, and by providing a combination of online and offline educational resources and supporting these long-term initiatives, Grow with Google is proud to work with partners to help students and teachers learn and grow.