Fighting misinformation online, together

Over the past 18 months, we have all used digital services more than ever before. Over half the world is now online, with our use of technology leaping forward five to ten years in as many months. The web has been a lifeline for many. But digital acceleration hasn’t been without challenges. Amongst them, misinformation is a stubborn problem both online and offline.

We know that Google and YouTube have a responsibility in this fight and we are determined to be part of the solution. Today, along with the European University Institute and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, we hosted a summit called Fighting Misinformation Online to bring together those working to tackle mis- and disinformation from across governments, educators, nonprofits, technologists, and news organisations. Speakers included EU Commissioner Jourová, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and fact checking experts like in Spain and the German Press Agency DPA in Germany.

What did we learn?

Every day, people around the world use Google to access high quality information, verify things they’ve heard elsewhere and learn more about the world. But what’s also true is that fighting disinformation and misinformation isn’t something we can do alone. Collaboration between academics, policymakers, publishers, and technology companies is key.

Professor Alexander Stubb, Director of the School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute, urged for a common sense of responsibility:”It’s the responsibility of the media, it’s the responsibility of companies and entrepreneurs, it’s the responsibility of NGOs and civil society, it’s the responsibility of academics and professors and researchers” to fight misinformation.

We also heard from experts in fact checking and media literacy who are helping people sort facts from fiction. Stefan Voss from the DPA spoke about Faktencheck21, a unique partnership which equipped journalists with the tools to debunk German election misinformation, as well as Mevan Babakar of Full Fact and Mélanie Jalans of Play Bac Presse

To support further work in fact checking and media literacy, Google contributed €25 million to launch the European News and Information Fund, set up by the European University Institute and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, under the supervision of the European Digital Media Observatory, earlier this year to strengthen fact checking, media literacy and research on disinformation. We encourage participants from the event and other experts to register interest here.

What is Google doing?

Speakers from Google including Sundar Pichai, Neal Mohan and Amanda Storey spoke about how Google is addressing the challenge.

It starts with raising up authoritative sources across our products. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve pointed to authoritative information from 170 public health organizations around the world. On Search, we make it easy to learn more about your results and provide key context about a website before you visit and we’re expanding these features into more languages.

When information doesn’t meet our guidelines, we block and remove it, in a consistent way. Every day, we take down 8 million deceptive ads to protect people from scams and we scan 100 billion apps to make sure they are safe.

And every day on YouTube, we follow the 4 Rs to: Remove content that violates our policies, Reduce the spread of harmful misinformation and borderline material, Raise up authoritative sources for news and information, and Reward trusted creators.

In 2018, we signed the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation. Now we’re working hard with other signatories on updating the Code to make it more robust, impactful and ready to address the current challenges, because we’re proud of what we’ve achieved, but we believe we can go further.

This investment is complemented by investments like our Google News Initiative, which has provided verification training to more than 90,000 journalists. And across our products, every day, Google surfaces independent fact checks six million times, helping you spot misinformation online.

And recently, we launched the Safety engineering centre for content responsibility in Dublin, our regional hub for experts to tackle illegal and harmful content and engage with regulators, emphasising openness, transparency and our shared mission.

The challenge we face is significant. But by using reputable research, best practices and working together with experts, we’re finding new and innovative ways to fight mis- and disinformation. And we hope today’s summit leads to even more collaboration. Building trust means building together.

You can watch the Summit back here.