Tag Archives: Alphabet

Alphabet issues sustainability bonds to support environmental and social initiatives

For more than 20 years, Google's products have improved the lives of people all over the world. Operating our business in an environmentally and socially responsible way has been a core value since our founding in 1998. Google has been carbon neutral since 2007 and we’ve matched our entire electricity consumption with renewables for the past three years. We continue to make major investments in affordable housing and have made a number of significant commitments to promote racial equity

Today, as part of a $10 billion debt offering, we have issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds, the largest sustainability or green bond by any company in history. Although a number of companies have issued green bonds (directed solely to environmental uses), sustainability bonds differ in that their proceeds support investment in both environmental and social initiatives. Such bonds are an emerging asset class and we hope this transaction will help develop this new market. We’re encouraged that there was such strong demand for these bonds from investors—they were significantly oversubscribed.


The proceeds from these sustainability bonds will fund ongoing and new projects that are environmentally or socially responsible and enable investors to join us in tackling critical issues. We believe that these investments benefit our communities, employees and stakeholders, and are an important part of fulfilling Google’s  mission and goal of creating value over the long term. 


Consistent with the Green Bond Principles and the Social Bond Principles, eligible projects for use of proceeds are within the following eight areas that build on significant investments we have previously made and will not be allocated to any Google.org activities.

Energy efficiency

For more than a decade, we’ve worked to make Google data centers some of the most efficient in the world by optimizing our use of energy, water, and materials. Today, on average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center. Compared with five years ago, we now deliver around seven times as much computing power with the same amount of electricity.  

Clean energy

Combating climate change requires transitioning to a clean energy economy. To date, we have committed approximately $4 billion to purchase clean energy from more than 50 wind and solar projects globally through 2034. Next, we are focused on our longer term vision to source carbon-free energy for our operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week; this means matching our energy consumption with clean energy for each of our data centers around the world on an hour-by-hour basis.

Green buildings

Since the beginning, we've focused on the impact of our workplaces: from how we build our offices to preventing food waste in our cafes. Today, more than 13 million square feet of Google offices are LEED certified.

Clean transportation 

We’re working to mitigate carbon emissions and take cars off the road by promoting the use of EVs and bicycles. By using Google shuttles in the Bay Area, we saved 40,000+ metric tons of CO2 emissions—equivalent to taking 8,760 cars off the road every work day. 

Circular economy and design

We are committed to maximizing the reuse of finite resources across our operations, products, and supply chains and to enable others to do the same. To date, we’ve shipped millions of devices made with post-consumer recycled plastic and 100% of Nest products launched in 2019 include recycled plastics.

Affordable housing

We strive to be a good neighbor in the places we call home. To address the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, we made a $1 billion commitment to invest in housing and expect to help build 20,000 residential units, of which at least 5,000 will be affordable. 

Commitment to racial equity 

Because racial equity is inextricably linked to economic opportunity, we will continue to support Black businesses. Recent efforts include a $175+ million economic opportunity initiative, including financing for small businesses in Black communities, and a $100 million YouTube fund to amplify the voices of Black creators and artists.

Support for small business and COVID-19 response

COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on many businesses. To help we made an $800+ million commitment to small- and medium-sized businesses, health organizations, governments, and health workers on the frontlines. We’ve also partnered with Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) to provide low-interest loans to community development financial institutions, who in turn provide loans to small businesses in underserved communities in the U.S., and are working with the American Library Association to create entrepreneurship centers across the U.S. 

Our Sustainability Bond Framework will guide our investments. To ensure transparency and alignment with the framework, we'll report back annually on which projects have been funded from the bonds' proceeds and their expected impact.

This is the next chapter in our commitment to a more sustainable future for everyone. 

Alphabet’s Q1 2020 earnings call

Note: These are Sundar Pichai's full remarks from today's Alphabet Q1 2020 earnings call. See below for an email to employees Sundar sent following the call. 

When I last spoke with you in early February, no one could have imagined how much the world would change, and how suddenly.

Our thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by COVID-19, especially those who’ve lost loved ones or their livelihoods. It’s a challenging moment for the world. 

Through it all, we’re incredibly grateful for all of the essential workers on the front lines of this crisis... from health care workers and first responders... to the grocery store clerks and delivery workers...to teachers grappling with new technology to help children learn remotely...to all of the scientists and researchers working hard to develop vaccines and treatments...and many others who are leading through these difficult times. Thank you.

These people fill us with hope and show us the power of human resilience. We’ll need that energy and resolve in the months and years ahead. 

Today, there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the path to recovery. But there are some things that we can understand better with the patterns we are seeing.

  • For example, it’s clear from data that people are being more cautious and are seeking authoritative advice and guidance to protect their families’ health and safety. A return to normal economic activity depends on how effectively societies manage the spread of the virus. There’s no one size fits all and the timing and pace of recovery will vary from location to location. This is a long-term effort.

  • It’s also clear that this is the first major pandemic taking place in a digital world.Many parts of the economy are also able to continue with some semblance of normalcy, thanks to advances in remote work, online shopping, delivery options, home entertainment and telemedicine. At the same time, newer technologies like AI, Bluetooth exposure notifications and 3D printing are being used to help fight the disease head on. 

  • It’s now clear that once the emergency has passed, the world will not look the same.Some social norms will change, and many businesses are speaking to us, looking to reinvent their operations. We have seen that the most pressing concern of small and large businesses right now is business continuity, solving for issues like employee safety, dramatic falls or surges in demand, supply chains and managing a remote workforce. Ultimately, we’ll see a long-term acceleration of movement from businesses to digital services, including increased online work, education, medicine, shopping and entertainment. These changes will be significant, and lasting.

Given the depth of the challenges so many are facing, it’s been a huge privilege to be able to help people and businesses at this moment. In today’s call, I’ll cover four areas:

  • First, I’ll mention some of the ways we have marshalled our resources and product development to help.

  • Second, I’ll talk about how people are using our products at this unprecedented moment. 

  • Third, I’ll talk about our business—especially our advertising business which was significantly impacted in the last few weeks of the quarter.

  • And I’ll close with our investment plans and focus for the rest of the year. 

In the early days of the crisis, we were able to put in motion a number of efforts quickly. This is a testament to strategic areas where we have invested over recent years: products that people trust; our technical leadership and innovation; deep partnerships; a highly skilled workforce; and the scale and resilience of our operations. 

I’ve been proud of all of these efforts and what they say about our company. I’ll give just a few examples.

First, we’ve been working with healthcare providers, researchers, authorities and communities to help combat the virus.

  • Our community mobility reports help authorities see, in aggregate, how social distancing requirements are working. 

  • Verily has tested thousands of people in California and has partnered with Rite Aid to bring free testing to eight additional states.

  • Google Cloud is forming deep partnerships, such as with leading health care provider HCA Healthcare, to understand data around ICU bed availability, ventilator supplies and test results. 

  • And you may have read about our exposure notification partnership with Apple, designed specifically and carefully to protect users’ privacy while helping public health authorities and governments manage countries’ re-opening.

Second, we are working hard to provide accurate and authoritative information to people using our services. 

  • In Search, we've launched a number of features such as up-to-date answers from health authorities, and remote medical care options. 

  • On YouTube, we are quickly removing content that violates policy, and raising authoritative content from news organizations and experts. Up to last week, our COVID-19 info panels have had 20 billion impressions.

Third, we’re playing a role in supporting businesses and workers that are hurting because of the downturn. 

  • In March, we made a commitment upwards of $800 million to support small businesses and crisis response efforts, through a combination of grants, small business loans and ad credits. 

  • And the Google News Initiative is offering financial support to thousands of small, medium and local news publishers through a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. We’ve also waived ad serving fees for news publishers globally on Ad Manager for the next five months.

Turning to the way people are using our products... 

People are relying on Google’s services more than ever. This is a strong recognition of the value of our products, particularly in important and urgent moments. As a few examples: 

  • We’ve seen a significant rise in search activity. To put it into perspective, in the U.S., coronavirus-related search activity at its peak was four times greater than during the peak of the Super Bowl. 

  • People are spending significantly more time on their Android apps, with downloads of apps from Google Play rising 30 percent from February to March.

  • YouTube watchtime has also significantly increased. One area in particular is livestreams. I hope you saw Andrea Bocelli on YouTube Live on Easter, which has had over 39 million views. It was truly beautiful.

  • 100 million students and educators are using Google Classroom, double the number from the beginning of March. 

  • We've seen a massive increase in demand for Chromebooks; analysts have reported a 400 percent increase during the week of March 21 year over year. 

  • And schools and businesses in particular are using our secure video conferencing platform Meet. Last week, we surpassed a significant milestone and are now adding roughly 3 million new users each day, and have seen a 30-fold increase in usage since January. There are now over 100 million daily Meet meeting participants. Stay tuned for much more!

Turning to our business, let me touch on our performance this quarter.

Q1 was in many ways the tale of two quarters. For our advertising business, the first two months of the quarter were strong. 

In March, we experienced a significant and sudden slowdown in ad revenues. The timing of the slowdown correlated to the locations and sectors impacted by the virus and related shutdown orders. 

As the impact of COVID-19 came into view, we delayed some ad launches and prioritized supporting our customers as many adjusted their strategies. 

We're focused on products where we can help most advertisers and merchants during the crisis. For example, under our new leader of Commerce, Bill Ready, last week we announced that merchants can list products in Google Shopping for free. It’s been widely rolled out in the U.S., with more countries to come, and the response has been positive. 

Overall, recovery in ad spend will depend on a return to economic activity. 

There are two key aspects of our business that give us confidence about the future:

  • First, as we saw after 2008, one of the strongest features of Search is that it can be adjusted quickly, so it’s relatively easier to turn off and then back on, and marketers see it as highly cost-effective and ROI based. 

  • Second, our business is more diversified than it was in 2008. 

For example, Cloud:

  • In the public sector, we are helping governments deliver critical health and social services. We’re supporting the State of New York’s new online unemployment application system as it deals with a significant increase in demand. 

  • In retail, we’ve helped Loblaw, one of Canada’s largest food retailers, and Wayfair scale to support exponential traffic increases. 

  • We are helping communication companies adapt to new behavior patterns. Vodafone is using Google Cloud Platform to help it analyze network traffic flows to keep everyone connected and we are helping Unity Technologies keep real-time online games stay up and running. 

  • Institutions like Lloyd's Bank are digitally transforming their businesses and we are helping even more businesses do the same through new partnerships with Accenture, AT&T, and T-Systems.

  • We now have more than 6 million paying G Suite customers. G Suite is helping Netflix and German manufacturer, KAESER Compressors transition quickly to remote work, while Twitter, Shopify, retailer Schnuks and Italian bank Credem are using Meet for things like all hands and customer meetings. 

Elsewhere across the business...

  • YouTube subscriptions continue to grow. The team has launched YouTube Kids in 15 new countries around the world since the beginning of the year, and rolled out new features to make kids-focused channels safer. 

  • Android previewed Android 11, which includes seamless 5G connectivity and a smarter keyboard with a faster messaging experience. And as I mentioned, we’ve seen significant growth in Play. There are now over 2.5 billion monthly active Play devices worldwide. 

  • And in hardware, we saw a decline in device activations in the quarter, due to falling consumer demand globally. But I am excited about the product roadmap ahead for the year—including yesterday’s launch of Pixel Buds 2. 

Finally, moving on to our focus for the rest of the year...

We’re taking a long view and continuing to invest in our long-term priorities, but are being thoughtful in the short term. So we made the decision to slow down the pace of hiring for the remainder of 2020, while maintaining momentum in a small number of strategic areas. We’re also recalibrating the focus and pace of our investments in areas like data centers and machines, and non-business essential marketing and travel. 

We’ll also continue to thoughtfully manage our Other Bets portfolio. Waymo raised $2.25 billion in its first external investment round, a terrific validation of their technology and long-term business model. Wing saw a surge in deliveries and new users, increasing its daily volume fivefold, with great momentum in test programs in Australia and Virginia.

At Google, we’ll continue to be focused on the four key areas that I outlined in the last earnings call. 

  • First, creating the most helpful products for everyone, particularly at a time where people rely on us for information, work, education and entertainment. 

  • Second, providing the most trusted experiences for our users. This includes our efforts to tackle misinformation and digital threats, as well as our work to safeguard consumer privacy.

  • Third, executing at scale. I’ve been proud of how we continue to work so cohesively and productively, even with a distributed workforce. We will continue to build on the internal tools, support systems and infrastructure we have built over the years. 

  • And finally, creating sustainable value. We’ll be optimizing the way our data centers work, and prioritizing strategic areas of investment where we need to support our users and partners. 

Let me express my thanks to our employees for their herculean efforts under these difficult circumstances. While the road ahead for everyone is uncertain, we’ll continue to support our users, communities and partners, and we’ll all emerge, together, from this moment.

Thank you, and please take care, everyone.


The following is an email to employees that Sundar sent today.

Hi everyone, 


Earlier today, Ruth and I wrapped our 2020 Q1 earnings call with investors. I was proud to share some of the ways we’ve come together as a company to help people and businesses during this time—thank you all for your efforts. 


I’ve included my opening remarks from the call below. The TL;DR is that Alphabet’s Q1 was a tale of two quarters. On the one hand, we’ve seen people turning to some of our products for help more than ever. This is reflected in the rise in Search activity, engagement on YouTube, downloads on Google Play and usage of G Suite.


The first two months of the quarter were strong for our Search, network and YouTube businesses. Then, in March, we experienced a significant and sudden slowdown in our advertising revenues, correlated to the locations and sectors impacted by the virus and related shutdown orders. 


As I mentioned on the call, recovery in ad spend will depend on a return to economic activity. That said, there are two key aspects of our business that give us confidence about the future: First, as we saw after 2008, one of the strongest features of Search Ads is they are cost-effective and can be adjusted quickly, so it’s comparatively easy to turn them off and then back on. Second, our business is more diversified than it was in 2008, and we are excited about the momentum in areas like YouTube, Cloud, Google Play and our computing efforts. We’re equally excited about the growth we’re seeing across Chromebooks and G Suite, particularly in Meet and Classroom, as more businesses and schools transition to remote work and learning. All of this will help us emerge from this period in a strong position.


I also spent some time on the call sharing observations about the patterns we’re seeing from the first pandemic of the digital era. While technology has allowed certain types of businesses to continue working as before, we can’t expect the world to snap back into place in a single day—this is a long-term effort. And when the crisis does pass, the world won’t look exactly as it did before the pandemic. This provides an opportunity for all of us to help people reimagine everything, from online work to education, to medicine and entertainment.


Overall, we made some good progress this quarter in spite of all the challenges. None of it would be possible without the herculean efforts from Googlers around the world. Thank you for everything you do to continue to support our users, customers, partners, and communities. We will get through this together. 


-Sundar


A letter from Larry and Sergey

Our very first founders’ letter in our 2004 S-1 began:


“Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one. Throughout Google’s evolution as a privately held company, we have managed Google differently. We have also emphasized an atmosphere of creativity and challenge, which has helped us provide unbiased, accurate and free access to information for those who rely on us around the world.”


We believe those central tenets are still true today. The company is not conventional and continues to make ambitious bets on new technology, especially with our Alphabet structure. Creativity and challenge remain as ever-present as before, if not more so, and are increasingly applied to a variety of fields such as machine learning, energy efficiency and transportation. Nonetheless, Google’s core service—providing unbiased, accurate, and free access to information—remains at the heart of the company.


However, since we wrote our first founders’ letter, the company has evolved and matured. Within Google, there are all the popular consumer services that followed Search, such as Maps, Photos, and YouTube; a global ecosystem of devices powered by our Android and Chrome platforms, including our own Made by Google devices; Google Cloud, including GCP and G Suite; and of course a base of fundamental technologies around machine learning, cloud computing, and software engineering. It’s an honor that billions of people have chosen to make these products central to their lives—this is a trust and responsibility that Google will always work to live up to.


And structurally, the company evolved into Alphabet in 2015. As we said in the Alphabet founding letter in 2015: 


“Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence.”


Since we wrote that, hundreds of Phoenix residents are now being driven around in Waymo cars—many without drivers! Wing became the first drone company to make commercial deliveries to consumers in the U.S. And Verily and Calico are doing important work, through a number of great partnerships with other healthcare companies. Some of our “Other Bets” have their own boards with independent members, and outside investors.


Those are just a few examples of technology companies that we have formed within Alphabet, in addition to investment subsidiaries GV and Capital G, which have supported hundreds more.  Together with all of Google’s services, this forms a colorful tapestry of bets in technology across a range of industries—all with the goal of helping people and tackling major challenges.


Our second founders’ letter began:


“Google was born in 1998. If it were a person, it would have started elementary school late last summer (around August 19), and today it would have just about finished the first grade.”


Today, in 2019, if the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost. While it has been a tremendous privilege to be deeply involved in the day-to-day management of the company for so long, we believe it’s time to assume the role of proud parents—offering advice and love, but not daily nagging!


With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure. We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about! 


Sundar brings humility and a deep passion for technology to our users, partners and our employees every day. He’s worked closely with us for 15 years, through the formation of Alphabet, as CEO of Google, and a member of the Alphabet Board of Directors. He shares our confidence in the value of the Alphabet structure, and the ability it provides us to tackle big challenges through technology. There is no one that we have relied on more since Alphabet was founded, and no better person to lead Google and Alphabet into the future.


We are deeply humbled to have seen a small research project develop into a source of knowledge and empowerment for billions—a bet we made as two Stanford students that led to a multitude of other technology bets. We could not have imagined, back in 1998 when we moved our servers from a dorm room to a garage, the journey that would follow.


Sundar sent the following email to Googlers on Tuesday, December 3:

Hi everyone,


When I was visiting Googlers in Tokyo a few weeks ago I talked about how Google has changed over the years. In fact, in my 15+ years with Google, the only constant I’ve seen is change. This process of continuous evolution -- which the founders often refer to as "uncomfortably exciting" -- is part of who we are. That statement will feel particularly true today as you read the news Larry and Sergey have just posted to our blog.

The key message Larry and Sergey shared is this: 


While it has been a tremendous privilege to be deeply involved in the day-to-day management of the company for so long, we believe it’s time to assume the role of proud parents—offering advice and love, but not daily nagging!


With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure. We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about! 


I first met Larry and Sergey back in 2004 and have been benefiting from their guidance and insights ever since. The good news is I’ll continue to work with them -- although in different roles for them and me. They’ll still be around to advise as board members and co-founders.

I want to be clear that this transition won't affect the Alphabet structure or the work we do day to day. I will continue to be very focused on Google and the deep work we’re doing to push the boundaries of computing and build a more helpful Google for everyone. At the same time, I’m excited about Alphabet and its long term focus on tackling big challenges through technology.

The founders have given all of us an incredible chance to have an impact on the world. Thanks to them, we have a timeless mission, enduring values, and a culture of collaboration and exploration that makes it exciting to come to work every day. It’s a strong foundation on which we will continue to build. Can’t wait to see where we go next and look forward to continuing the journey with all of you. 

- Sundar


See Alphabet’s press release.

“We choose to go to the moon”: Lessons from X

Editor's note: This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission landing on the moon. As part of Google's celebration of this historic event, we asked X's Astro Teller to share his thoughts on moonshots. This post was also published on X's blog.

In the fall of 2010, I asked Larry Page a series of questions to find out what he wanted X’s purpose to be. “Is X a research center?” No, Larry said. “A philanthropic organization?” No. “An incubator?” No. “Are we solving Google’s problems?” No. Eventually, I asked, “Are we taking moonshots?” And he smiled and said, “YES.” 


While I confess I hadn’t fully thought through the question when I asked it, the word’s sense of audacity and extreme difficulty spoke to both of us. And it was the seed of X’s identity as a moonshot factory, with a mission of repeatedly developing far-out, sci-fi-sounding technologies that might someday make the world a radically better place. So as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this month, here’s some of the other inspiration I’ve taken from the teams who put a person on the moon. 

Commemorative sand mandala by Andres Amador at X's celebration of the moon landing

A commemorative sand mandala by Andres Amador at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing at X headquarters 

Optimism and perspective-shifting as a strategy 

Our use of the term “moonshot” isn’t literal; it’s more of an emotional blueprint. A moonshot is about looking beyond where you can actually see and envisioning an answer that doesn't seem reasonable—and pursuing it anyway. It’s about doing things that sound undoable but if done could redefine humanity. 


In the early 1960’s, spacecraft for moon landings didn’t exist. There were no spacesuits, no space snacks, no computers for space navigation—plenty of reasons, in other words, to scoff at President Kennedy’s bold vision. But he made a powerful choice: to be an optimist and ask for something that, if possible at all, would require a radical reimagining of what space flight could be.  


Perspective-shifting is one of X’s most deeply held principles. It’s not just about having an idea that sounds like science fiction (though we do reject a lot of ideas for not sounding impossible enough!). We look for a new way of thinking that avoids the usual methods and obstacles—like beaming Internet from balloons or free-space-optical stations rather than running fiber-optic cable through jungles and mountains. When you let your imagination run free and then run experiments to see whether your hypothesis could actually work, you can uncover surprising new approaches.  


10X can be easier than 10 percent

Growing up there were three events I wished I had been part of. The first was the work led by Alan Turing and others during WWII to build the first real computer and the decryption process that led to modern computer science. The second, which my grandfather was a part of, was the Manhattan Project; work on the atomic bomb gave rise to the first electronic general purpose computer. The third was the Apollo space missions. These three special gatherings symbolized for me that the seemingly impossible can happen when passionate and talented people come together with urgency and determination. 


The secret? It’s easier to get people to work on making something 10X better than to get them to help make it 10 percent better. Huge problems fire up our hearts as well as our minds. When you’re aiming for a 10X gain, you can’t just slog through it. You have to find whole new ways of doing things, and lean on bravery and creativity—the kind that, literally and metaphorically, can put a person on the moon. 

Huge problems fire up our hearts as well as our minds.

Cognitive diversity is the key to creativity

More than 400,000 people made the Apollo mission possible—from mechanical engineers to fashion designers, with teams reaching from New England to California. Behind the millions of rocket components were many more millions of prototypes and experiments—all the rough ideas and uncomfortable moments necessary to solve problems no one had ever faced before. This was creativity in action, at a massive scale. 


The lone inventor having a eureka moment is largely a myth; innovation comes from great teams where everyone feels comfortable raising questions and sharing their views. The more people a project has from a wide range of backgrounds and communities, the more fresh perspectives and creative ideas we can generate—and the better we’ll all be. At X, that’s why former rocket scientists work alongside concert pianists and puppeteers, and marine biologists mingle with physicists and machine learning experts. 


Moonshots are a mindset 

The space race was valuable far beyond its original goal: NASA’s work has led to dozens of technology breakthroughs with many everyday uses, and inspired generations of kids like me to fall in love with science and engineering. When the world’s problems make us feel small and helpless, we should reflect on the lessons the Apollo missions hold about human nature, and our ability to choose bravery over fear and set aside apathy in favor of audacity. We can get traction against the world’s most pressing problems—I believe that deeply, and we need more people than ever to believe that too.

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.

Perspective_1.gif

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.

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.

Perspective_1.gif

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.

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.

Perspective_1.gif

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.

Project Shield: Defending Maka Angola

Rafael Marques De Morais is a journalist in Angola who runs Maka Angola, the largest independent news site in the country. Operating from Rafael’s kitchen table, Maka Angola may have a small staff, but its impact in Angola is massive. Their investigative journalism, covering topics from conflict diamonds, to wartime atrocities and crippling poverty, have given the citizens of Angola a platform where their voices can now be heard.

As a result of his coverage, Rafael has been threatened, thrown in jail and been the target of constant distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to take Maka Angola offline. Rafael has been able to partner with Jigsaw’s Project Shield, ensuring that his site stayed online and continued its work.

The world’s news is under threat from DDoS attacks -- a simple and inexpensive way for anyone with an internet connection to take down a news organization anywhere in the world. This type of cyber attack is one of the most pernicious forms of censorship in the 21st century.

Jigsaw’s Project Shield is a free service that uses Google’s technology to protect independent news sites and human rights groups from DDoS attacks. In light of the rising threat, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced earlier this year that Shield is available to journalists, news sites and human rights organizations around the world for free.

Learn more about Rafael’s story and the work of Project Shield.

Project Shield: Defending Maka Angola

Rafael Marques De Morais is a journalist in Angola who runs Maka Angola, one of the largest independent news site in the country. Operating from Rafael’s kitchen table, Maka Angola may have a small staff, but its impact in Angola is massive. Their investigative journalism, covering topics from conflict diamonds, to wartime atrocities and crippling poverty, have given the citizens of Angola a platform where their voices can now be heard.

As a result of his coverage, Rafael has been threatened, thrown in jail and been the target of constant distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to take Maka Angola offline. Rafael has been able to partner with Jigsaw’s Project Shield, ensuring that his site stayed online and continued its work.

The world’s news is under threat from DDoS attacks -- a simple and inexpensive way for anyone with an internet connection to take down a news organization anywhere in the world. This type of cyber attack is one of the most pernicious forms of censorship in the 21st century.

Jigsaw’s Project Shield is a free service that uses Google’s technology to protect independent news sites and human rights groups from DDoS attacks. In light of the rising threat, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced earlier this year that Shield is available to journalists, news sites and human rights organizations around the world for free.

Learn more about Project Shield here.

Project Shield: Defending Maka Angola

Rafael Marques De Morais is a journalist in Angola who runs Maka Angola, one of the largest independent news site in the country. Operating from Rafael’s kitchen table, Maka Angola may have a small staff, but its impact in Angola is massive. Their investigative journalism, covering topics from conflict diamonds, to wartime atrocities and crippling poverty, have given the citizens of Angola a platform where their voices can now be heard.

As a result of his coverage, Rafael has been threatened, thrown in jail and been the target of constant distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to take Maka Angola offline. Rafael has been able to partner with Jigsaw’s Project Shield, ensuring that his site stayed online and continued its work.

The world’s news is under threat from DDoS attacks -- a simple and inexpensive way for anyone with an internet connection to take down a news organization anywhere in the world. This type of cyber attack is one of the most pernicious forms of censorship in the 21st century.

Jigsaw’s Project Shield is a free service that uses Google’s technology to protect independent news sites and human rights groups from DDoS attacks. In light of the rising threat, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced earlier this year that Shield is available to journalists, news sites and human rights organizations around the world for free.

Learn more about Project Shield here.