Tag Archives: Google in Europe

Presenting search app and browser options to Android users in Europe

People have always been able to customize their Android devices to suit their preferences. That includes personalizing the design, installing any apps they want and choosing which services to use as defaults in apps like Google Chrome.

Following the changes we made to comply with the European Commission's ruling last year, we’ll start presenting new screens to Android users in Europe with an option to download search apps and browsers.  

These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update. Two screens will surface: one for search apps and another for browsers, each containing a total of five apps, including any that are already installed. Apps that are not already installed on the device will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order.

Android screen

An illustration of how the screens will look. The apps shown will vary by country.

Users can tap to install as many apps as they want. If an additional search app or browser is installed, the user will be shown an additional screen with instructions on how to set up the new app (e.g., placing app icons and widgets or setting defaults). Where a user downloads a search app from the screen, we’ll also ask them whether they want to change Chrome's default search engine the next time they open Chrome.


The prompt in Google Chrome to ask the user whether they want to change their default search engine.

The screens are rolling out over the next few weeks and will apply to both existing and new Android phones in Europe.

These changes are being made in response to feedback from the European Commission. We will be evolving the implementation over time.  

Grown in the Netherlands, Google Tulip communicates with plants

Throughout time, humans have created more and more effective ways to communicate with each other. But technology hasn’t quite made it there with flowers, even though it’s no secret that members of the floral world do talk to one another. Scientists have found that plants use their roots to send signals to neighboring plants, as a means to maintain their security and wellbeing.

Decoding the language of plants and flowers has been a decades-long challenge. But that changes today. Thanks to great advancements in artificial intelligence, Google Home is now able to understand tulips, allowing translation between Tulipish and dozens of human languages.

Google Tulip, alongside a Google Home Hub on a couch

The ability to speak with tulips comes with great environmental and societal benefits. Tulips now have a way to indicate to humans that they’re in need of water, light or simply some more space. As their needs are expressed more clearly, they are able to live a happier and healthier life.   

Socially, it turns out that plants, and particularly tulips, are very chatty, and make for great friends. Tulips are excellent listeners and when listened to carefully, give sound advice.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google Tulip was largely developed and tested in the Netherlands, a country that produces 12.5 billion flowers a year. In particular, the Dutch are world renowned for their tulips, and even have a world-famous flower park, called Keukenhof, which provided the perfect testing ground.

Google is uniquely positioned to solve the challenge of speaking with plants. Building on an advancement called Neural Machine Translation, we worked with Wageningen University & Research to map tulip signals to human language. After two years of training, we were finally able to add Tulipish as a language to Google Home’s recently introduced Interpreter Mode.

Google Tulip is only available on April 1, 2019. Look for it on your Google Home device, simply by saying, “Hey Google, talk to my tulip.”

Digital News Innovation Fund: three years in, and 662 total projects supported

In 2015, Google launched the DNI Fund, an initiative open to publishers of all sizes in Europe that financially supports high-quality journalism through technology and innovation. After three years and six successful rounds of funding, we’re taking a look at the impact the Fund has had on the European news scene. Today, we’re announcing the results of the last round: 103 projects selected in 23 countries and more than 25 million Euros offered. This brings the total to 662 projects supported in more than 30 countries across six funding rounds.

Graphic depicting DNI’s total funding across Europe since its launch.

DNI’s total funding across Europe since its launch.

Welcoming newcomers to the DNI Fund

As with the previous rounds, we were impressed by the diversity and the quality of the projects that have been submitted. 162 of the applications came from collaborations between publishers, startups and academics. It was also heartening to see that 52 percent of applicants of the applicants (351 total, about 52 percent of applicants) were newcomers to the DNI Fund.

A graphic depicting round 6 of the DNI Fund, with results broken down by country.

Round 6 projects, broken down by country.

Once again, we asked large (up to €1 million) and medium (up to €300,000) applicants to focus on one of the most pressing issues identified by the news ecosystem: the diversification of revenue streams. We were excited to see such a wide variety of approaches from some of the biggest names in the industry alongside relative newcomers. Artificial intelligence and machine learning projects continued to be a top technology focus, and Round 6 applications demonstrated clear interest in exploring opportunities around driving subscriptions, creating new payment models and finding ways to minimize churn.

Across the prototype track (up to €50,000 awards), applicants offered plenty of stimulating new thinking, with individuals, organizations and companies looking at everything from fact checking to augmented reality.

Here’s a small selection of the projects that were offered funding in this round:

Single Sign-On, SSO Geste, France

The largest collaboration of publishers ever seen in France has formed a consortium and will receive €750,000 to create a Single Sign-On platform for more than 22 major media groups.

The ThinkIn Organised Listening Platform, Tortoise, UK

This start-up company is developing a new type of participation tool for users of its “slow journalism” enterprise, which will be the digital equivalent of giving members a seat at the newsroom table. It was awarded €553,000.

Readers club, DuMont.next, Germany

Digital unit of German publisher Dumont Mediengruppe will receive €475,000 to launch a gamified local rewards program. It will increase engagement and e-commerce on its local Hamburger Morgenpost site by rewarding all registered users on their sites with a virtual currency that can be used for products on their other platforms.

SAC (Subscription Accelerator Content), Diario de Navarra, Spain

The SAC is a collaborative project between this regional Spanish publisher and Hiberius Media Lab to develop a tool using AI and machine learning. The tool will provide real-time data-driven insights on which pieces of their published content successfully converts readers into subscribers and which retains them as engaged readers. It will receive €206,150.

PressHub Market, Freedom House, Romania

This Romanian journalism platform will receive €49,700 to develop revenue opportunities for its small independent member publications by building an advertisement marketplace for them to access and profit from.

Launching the Google News Innovation Challenge in Europe to support local news

Stimulating innovation within the news industry takes time. We’re in it for the long haul. That’s why we launched the Google News Initiative one year ago, a $300 million commitment to help journalism thrive. As part of these efforts—and after a pilot in Asia—the GNI Innovation Challenge will roll out in Europe. For this first round, we’ll specifically look for ideas around “local” journalism, since we know that building a sustainable business model for local news is a challenge here in Europe, similar to other parts of the world. The application window for this first European GNI Challenge will open this spring. In the meantime, I invite all applicants to check our website for more information, specific dates and eligibility requirements, which will be announced soon. We look forward to receiving GNI Challenge applications, as well as continuing to learn from the news ecosystem and participating publishers.

How digital skills training helped three friends found a startup

Whether you’re a teacher, accountant, engineer or farmer, the digital economy is transforming the workplace as we know it. According to a study by the European Commission, 90 percent of workplaces in the European Union today require employees to have basic digital skills. And Europeans are beginning to learn these skills on their own in their spare time. This is exactly what Nik Kiene, Malte Schülein and Lennart Hartrumpf, three students from Flensburg, a city in northern Germany, did last summer. While most students spent the holidays hanging out or traveling with friends and family, the trio went back to school.

They had a vision to create a web-based startup together. “ShareSpace,” a sharing economy platform, would help users rent out rarely used goods, like sporting or technical equipment. While they’d been developing the startup idea for months, the three friends lacked the skills needed to turn their vision into reality.

That’s when 19-year-old Lennart found out about Google Zukunftswerkstatt, one of three Grow with Google training centers in Hamburg, which provides free training on a variety of digital topics. He attended one of the sessions on a whim; the next time he went, he brought Nik and Malte along. They soon agreed that the curriculum at Google Zukunftswerkstatt was the perfect fit, since it would provide them with both the technical and soft skills they needed to get ShareSpace started.

After they began attending trainings at Google Zukunftswerkstatt, their business plans started to fall into place. “The insights from the Google Analytics training helped us tremendously in properly evaluating data and improving our platform,” explains Lennart, “while the online marketing courses are now helping us get the word out about our startup.” They continued and enrolled in additional training sessions on different skills: “The training session ‘Negotiating successfully’ has helped us out on many occasions, especially during talks with older and more experienced business owners. We’re way more confident now,” says Malte.

Lennart and his friends ended up attending every training session available during their summer break, commuting six hours every day from their hometown Flensburg to Hamburg and back. “Anyone can spend their summer break at the pool! Getting up early was definitely worth it for the offerings of Google Zukunftswerkstatt”, says Malte.

Like these three budding entrepreneurs, many people in Germany might feel like they don’t have the skills needed to be part of the new, technology-centred economy. The free training sessions at Google Zukunftswerkstatt are open to everyone. So far, through Google Zukunftswerkstatt, Grow with Google has helped more than half a million people obtain new digital skills, leading to a positive impact on individuals’ careers, businesses and the German economy. At each of our training centers in Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, we aim to help people take the next step in their career, grow their business, find a job and be empowered with the skills they need.

For Nik, Malte and Lennart, spending the summer holidays a little differently has paid off. The threesome recently launched a beta of their ShareSpace platform and are now pitching for seed funding as a registered company. While their journey began with free Google Zukunftswerkstatt sessions, it has led to the exciting beginnings of a working startup and an exciting future ahead.

EU Copyright Directive: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

We support updating copyright rules for this digital age, recognize the value of content that creators and rights holders produce and care deeply about journalism. We all share a belief in the social value of knowledge and content, and when publishers and creators succeed, we succeed.  

European lawmakers recently agreed on a final text of a new copyright directive. Many voices, including consumer associations, creators, small publishers, academics and startups have shared their concerns about the outcome. Having studied the final text, we agree that the directive would not help, but rather hold back, Europe’s creative and digital economy.

Let’s start with the positive. The latest text improves the version adopted by the European Parliament in September 2018. Take Article 13. Platforms making a good-faith effort to help rights holders identify and protect works should not face liability for every piece of content a user uploads, especially when neither the rights-holder nor the platform specifically knows who actually owns that content. The final text includes language that recognizes that principle.

At the same time, the directive creates vague, untested requirements, which are likely to result in online services over-blocking content to limit legal risk. And services like YouTube accepting content uploads with unclear, partial, or disputed copyright information could still face legal threats. 

The text needs to be clearer to reduce legal uncertainty about how rights holders should cooperate to identify their content—giving platforms reference files, as well as copyright notices with key information (like URLs) to facilitate identifying and removing infringing content, while not removing legitimate material.

Article 13 could impact a large number of platforms, big and small, many of them European. Some may not be able to bear these risks. This would be bad for creators and users, who will see online services wrongly block content simply because they need to err on the side of caution and reduce legal risks.

Then there’s Article 11. Again, we’ve seen improvements to earlier versions of the text. We’ve always said the copyright directive should give all publishers the right to control their own business models, making it possible for them to waive the need for a formal commercial license for their content. And it seems that the directive gives publishers the freedom to grant free licenses, which makes it easier for publishers of all sizes to make money from getting more readers.

Yet this latest version hurts small and emerging publishers, and limits consumer access to a diversity of news sources. Under the directive, showing anything beyond mere facts, hyperlinks and “individual words and very short extracts” will be restricted. This narrow approach will create uncertainty, and again may lead online services to restrict how much information from press publishers they show to consumers. Cutting the length of snippets will make it harder for consumers to discover news content and reduce overall traffic to news publishers, as shown by one of our recent search experiments.

Finally, while we share the directive’s goal of promoting quality journalism, the directive’s definition of what counts as a “press publisher” could well be interpreted too broadly, including anything from travel guides to recipe websites  - diluting any benefits for those who gather and distribute the kinds of news most central to the democratic process.

We recognize and appreciate the progress in the text of the directive, but we remain concerned about unintended consequences that may hurt Europe’s creative economy for decades to come. The details matter, so we urge policy makers to take these concerns into consideration ahead of the decisive vote and in the implementation phase that follows. 

How I started a new career while raising three kids, thanks to Google

Editor’s Note: Since 2016, more than 73,000 people have explored new opportunities with the Google Developer scholarship, part of Grow with Google’s commitment to help people across Europe–from Hungary to rural France–succeed in the digital economy.

Zuzana, a working mother from the U.K., was awarded the Google scholarship and graduated from a Udacity Nanodegree program, enabling her to launch a new career as a web developer. She’s among 21% of all Udacity Nanodegree students in the Grow with Google program in Europe who have received job offers after graduating. With her newfound confidence and skills, Zuzana was able to find the flexibility she needed to balance motherhood and her ideal career. Here is her story:

Being a mom to young kids isn’t easy. There’s always something you need to do for them, and it’s really hard to make time for yourself. So it was a special moment when in 2014, as a 33-year-old mother of two, I graduated with an undergraduate degree in psychology.

I looked forward to applying my new skills, but none of the jobs for psychology graduates offered the flexibility I needed to look after my young family. For a while I worked as a teaching assistant in a school, but though the hours were great, I wasn’t utilizing my degree. I felt stuck. So when I became pregnant with my third child, I decided to make a change.

I searched online for flexible jobs and started reading about people who had learned how to code and just months later were working from home. I’d never been interested in technology before– I simply thought that wasn’t me. But out of curiosity, I started to look into what developers do.

When I read about web accessibility, something clicked. Web accessibility is about making the web accessible to all, regardless of a person’s disabilities. Since I knew about the issues disabled people might have (like attention disorders, fine motor skills deficiency and sight impairment), I could see how these issues could affect them when using the web.

Learning web accessibility would allow me to apply psychology in a flexible work arrangement, and I could learn how to do it in my own time. I thought, Wow! Finally, there's something for me as a mom and as a person!

The Udacity Nanodegree program offered both a course on accessibility and a schedule that would fit my family commitments. I never thought I would get the Developer Scholarship from Google when I applied, so I was amazed to get an email saying I had been accepted.

I’d found it hard to think of myself as a web developer, but the scholarship changed that. It made me feel that someone believed in me, so I should believe in myself. The online interaction on the course was incredible, so I never felt like I was studying alone. Even so, when I was completing my Nanodegree program, it was a big step for me to go to a local tech meetup and present a talk to experienced developers. After I spoke, developers came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed my presentation. And shortly after that, one of them offered me my first job, as a web developer for a branding agency.

Whether it was psychology or programming, I've been hard at work studying ever since my first child was born. When I got that very first job, the kids celebrated with me because they knew how much hard work I’d put into it. I’m so glad I can be there for them–cooking, spending time together, helping them with their homework–and also focus on myself. The opportunity has opened new doors for my career, while keeping the door to my family wide open, too. I feel like I’ve finally found my perfect balance.

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.