Tag Archives: Google in Latin America

Journalism and AI team up to measure missing stories

Violent organized crime is one of the biggest crises facing Mexico, and it places journalists in harm’s way. Murders are a daily occurrence in many parts of the country, and research shows that Mexico is the most deadly place in the world for reporters outside of active war zones. The natural desire to avoid becoming a target has led some journalists to choose to stay quiet to save their lives.

Something akin to a code of silence has emerged across the country. We suspected that there were entire regions where journalists were not reporting on the violence, threats, intimidation and murder that were well known to be part of daily life.

We set out to measure this silence and its impact on journalism. To do so, we partnered with the Google News Initiative to use the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to quantify and visualize news coverage and analyze the gaps in coverage across the country.

Our first step was to establish a process to determine the absence of news. We explored articles on violence to understand how they compare to the government's official registry of homicides.

In theory, each murder that occurs ought to correspond with at least one local report about the event. If we saw a divergence, or if the government's reports were suddenly very different from local news coverage, we could deduce that journalists were being silenced.

Early on, sorting through news articles seemed impossible. We knew we needed to find a news archive with the largest number of publications in Mexico possible so we could track daily coverage across the country. Google News’ vast collection of local and national news stories across Mexico was a good fit.

The effort required us to identify the difference between the number of homicides officially recorded and the news stories of those killings on Google News. This required machine learning algorithms that were able to identify the first reported story and then pinpoint where the event took place. With that information, we were able to connect reported events by media with the government's reports on homicides across more than 2400 municipalities in Mexico.

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A map of unreported murders across Mexico that were identified through El Universal’s project.  

Finally, to measure the degree of silence in each region of the country, we created a formula that allows us to see the evolution of this phenomenon over time. The resulting data shows a fascinating mix of falls or peaks in unreported deaths, which coincide with events such as the arrival of new governments or the deaths of drug dealers. Further investigation will allow us to explain these connections.

At El Universal, we’re committed to continue our search for news deserts, to enhance the vitality of journalism in Mexico and draw attention to how coverage varies according to the type of crimes committed in each region, not just homicides.

This exercise is another reminder that in Mexico, as in many other countries, we cannot take freedom of the press for granted.

Google for Brazil: expanding access to technology and information

Access is at the core of everything we do at Google, going back to our mission statement. Without access to a decent internet connection or digital skills, people can’t use technology to make their lives easier.

With that in mind, we made a series of announcements today at our annual Google for Brazil event in São Paulo to help Brazilians get more out of the internet, ranging from fast and free Wi-Fi hubs to educational programs. And as part of our commitment to responsible innovation, we also shared how we're building privacy and transparency tools into our products to give people clear, individualized choices around how their data is used.

Google Station arrives in Brazil

Google Station aims to connect people to a fast, free and open internet. We have 80 locations up and running in public squares, parks and train stations across São Paulo already, thanks to our partners America Net and Linktel and our first sponsor, Itaú. We plan to keep working with partners to launch hundreds more Google Station locations across Brazil by the end of 2020.

Privacy for everyone

As our technology evolves, so do our privacy protections to ensure that people have control over their data. Today, two new privacy tools went live in Brazil, where people can now use Android phones as security keys, adding an extra layer of protection to their information. They can also check how data is being used in Maps, Search and the Assistant, by accessing the apps menu and choosing the option “Your data in …” There, you can review and delete your location activity in Maps or your search activity in Search. Soon, the same feature will be accessible on YouTube.

Auto-delete controls for Web and Apps Activity are also now available globally, allowing people to easily manage the amount of time their data is saved. Choose a limit—3 or 18 months—and anything older than that will be automatically deleted on an ongoing basis. Auto-delete controls are coming soon to Location History. And Incognito Mode for Maps and Search is coming later this year.

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Strengthening the news ecosystem

To connect people with high-quality information and news, we're working closely with journalists and publishers. Here are three ways we’re helping to fuel innovation in journalism in Brazil and Latin America:

  • Google News Initiative grants will support training programs and events for Brazilian journalism associations, including continued funding for Comprova, a coalition of more than 20 news organizations to combat misinformation online.

  • We put out a call for applications for the first GNI Innovation Challenge in Latin America, an initiative to fund projects that bring new ideas and sustainable business models to digital journalism. We'll fund proposals with up to one million reais. Registration is open until July 22.

  • We’re starting an incubation program for journalism startups, in partnership with Google for Startups Campus São Paulo. The Digital Native News Incubator will support early stage teams with products, tools, and mentorship as they build their organizations.

Voice and helpfulness

Brazilians love using their voices to get things done on their phones. The Assistant in Portuguese has been around for almost two years, and Brazil is already among the top three countries in active users. Brazilians will soon have another way to keep the conversation flowing—local tech company Positivo is set to roll out a smart feature phone running KaiOS, with an Assistant button. It’s an entry-level device that can help you through the day, using voice to search, send messages and much more. Positivo is also introducing a new line of devices like lamps, plugs, cameras and alarms that can be controlled by voice, another example of how the Assistant can serve as the backbone of a smart home.

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We’re also partnering with developers and brands to build relevant Actions. One example is Galinha Pintadinha, a popular Brazilian content creator for families, which launched a set of news games that revive our childhood with traditional plays like “freeze dance”. Starting today, experiences like this will also be available on entry-level Android Go phones.

Media literacy, digital skills and more

Navigating the deluge of information online can be challenging. A Google.org grant of 4 million reais is going to Palavra Aberta Institute to create EducaMídia, media literacy program which will help Brazilian teachers and students develop skills to distinguish online misinformation from reliable content.

In addition, a 4.5 million reais grant for Junior Achievement Brazil will fund 2,000 scholarships for the IT Support Professional Certificate, an online training program developed by Google and hosted on Coursera. Through the grant, we will prepare young Brazilians from underrepresented communities to become the next generation of IT Support Specialists, and help connect them with potential local employers upon completion.

Change the Game, a Google Play initiative to support and empower women as game players and creators, is also coming to Brazil. We'll ask women to submit ideas for games, and together with partners we'll help develop and launch two winning projects. We'll also offer training for 500 young women who want to make their mark in the mobile gaming world.

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Speaking of games, the Women's World Cup is upon us. Whether you call it soccer, football, futebol or fútbol, you can keep up with all the action in this year's tournament in France using Google tools such as Search and the Assistant.

Last but not least, we pulled back the curtains on a retrospective for one of Brazil's most celebrated artists, Cândido Portinari. After “Faces of Frida,” “Portinari: Painter of the People” is the second-largest collection dedicated to a Latin American artist on Google Arts & Culture.

We feel privileged that people turn to Google for help in their daily lives. We're doing our best to match that trust with responsible innovation that serves people everywhere, wherever they may be.

Bringing new voices, and communities, to the world of podcasts

Editor’s note: The Google Podcasts creator program, run by PRX, provides 20 weeks of training, mentorship, and seed funding to promising podcasters, with the aim of promoting underrepresented voices throughout the industry and around the world. Applications for the next round are currently open and will be accepted until 11:59pm ET, Sunday, April 14.

Catalina May and Martín Cruz, the team behind “Las Raras” (“The Outsiders”), are independent podcasters based in Santiago, Chile. They are one of the six teams participating in the first round of the program. Their training began in January 2019 with a week-long intensive “bootcamp” at the PRX Podcast Garage in Boston and will culminate in a final showcase on June 19 in Boston.

A few days ago, while reporting about Chilean countrymen fighting for their land, we contacted a source to request an interview. Our source asked us where the story would appear.

“We have an independent podcast,” we explained. “It’s called ‘Las Raras,’ and we are part of the Google Podcasts creator program.”

Then, silence. For many seconds. We knew what we had to ask.

“Do you know what a podcast is?”

She did not.

This is a very common situation for us. Not only in Chile where we live, but also in Latin America broadly, many people haven’t even heard the word podcast, much less listened to one.

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Cruz and May at the Google Podcasts creator program.

When we arrived in Boston for the Google Podcasts creator program bootcamp, we experienced the total opposite of our situation in Santiago. At the PRX Podcast Garage, we met amazing trainers and the five other teams in the program. It was a dream to talk about podcasting for twelve hours a day with a diverse group of people who share our passion.

Through the other teams, we learned how many different goals a podcast might have: raise awareness about LGBTQ+ people’s lives in a place where homosexuality is illegal (“AfroQueer”), tell stories from the Filipino diaspora (“Long Distance”), reflect on modern beauty standards (“The Colored Girl Beautiful”), introduce children to Puerto Rican history (“Timestorm”), or talk about car culture and road rage (“Who Taught You How to Drive?!”).

We created our podcast, “Las Raras,” in 2015, inspired (like many) by the first season of “Serial.” As a journalist and a sound engineer, we heard right away what podcasts could do. This intimate medium is perfect for telling stories of people who are frequently overlooked, stories of people challenging norms and stories of people defying the status quo.

In other words, podcasts let us tell stories we feel passionate about and are not often heard in Chile. Right away, we loved the innovation and openness podcasting offered. But it was daunting, too. We had to learn a new way of interviewing and structuring stories, and how to use sound without visuals. There were almost no other podcasts in Chile at that time, too.

It was also financially risky. Our first two seasons were self-financed. Luckily, for our third season, we got some support from the International Women’s Media Foundation. It helped, but we were still feeling quite alone and facing an uncertain road ahead. When we first heard about the Google Podcasts creator program, it seemed perfect for us, because its goal is to increase the diversity of voices in the podcasting industry.

We put our hearts and souls into the application, making clear that we were at a critical time for our podcast. Two days before Christmas, we received an email confirming that we had been chosen. It took us a couple of weeks to really believe that it was happening. It’s an honor, but also a huge responsibility.

We know the stories we want to tell, and the support of the Google Podcasts creator program will allow us to take “Las Raras” to the next level. Our goal in the program is to find a way to be successful on a long-term basis. With the support of Google, PRX, our mentors and our fellow podcasters, we are focusing our attention on better understanding the needs of our audience, and developing a sustainable business model for “Las Raras.” The program offers the training to improve the quality of the stories we love to tell, and those we know our audience wants to hear.

Inside Brazil’s National Museum on Google Arts & Culture

On September 2nd 2018, a fire struck the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, one of the largest collections of natural history in the world. An estimated 20 million pieces were lost, including indigenous artifacts, dinosaur remains and the oldest human skeleton ever discovered in the Americas.

Starting back in 2017, Google Arts & Culture had begun working with the museum to bring their collection online—so that anyone, anywhere in the world could see and learn about these ancient artifacts. Now for the first time ever, you can virtually step inside the museum and learn about its lost collection through Street View imagery and online exhibits.

The incredible diversity of artifacts in Brazil’s National Museum reflected centuries of Brazil's culture and natural history, from the Amazon’s endangered butterflies to beautifully-crafted indigenous masks and decorated pottery. Unfortunately, the destruction of collections like these reminds us of the diverse threats that exist to the world’s heritage—and how important it is to protect it. Advances in technology—like high-resolution photography, photogrammetry, 3D laser scanning, and virtual and augmented reality—have not only introduced new forms of art, but help us preserve the world's most precious heritage. Even though images cannot replace what has been lost, they offer us a way to remember.

Learn more about the National Museum of Brazil by exploring the exhibition on Google Arts & Culture and on our iOS and Android apps.