Tag Archives: Public Policy

Tracking data to advance health equity

Last year, I saw COVID-19 impact the lives of some of the strongest people I know because of their race, class and zip code — especially in my hard-hit hometown of Detroit. But I wasn’t the only one who witnessed this. We’ve all heard how the pandemic has affected vulnerable communities across the country due to structural and long-standing health inequities. Even so, there was no central resource to help consolidate, visualize and understand the data on a national scale. 

Over the past year a team of Google.org Fellows and I worked with the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and a multi-disciplinary Health Equity Taskforce to understand COVID-19 health inequities. Today, we released The Health Equity Tracker (HET), a publicly available data platform that visually displays and contextualizes the health disparities facing communities of color throughout the U.S.

With $1.5 million of Google.org grant funding and over 15,000 pro bono hours donated from 18 Google.org Fellows, the HET parses through a mountain of public health data to record COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations nationwide across race and ethnicity, sex and age, as well as state and county. The tracker also measures social and systemic factors — like poverty and lack of health insurance — that exacerbate these inequities and have resulted in higher COVID-19 death rates for people of color, especially Black and Latinx communities.  

The HET allows users to compare public health data on a local and national level.

The HET allows users to compare public health data on a local and national level. 

Collecting this data showed us where there are gaps in our knowledge. Public health data can be inconsistent, collected in silos or missing completely. Knowing where these blindspots are is valuable. When we’re aware of unknown or missing data, we’re able to take action toward improving data collection and reporting standards.

The tracker currently focuses on data analysis for COVID-19, but in the future we expect to be able to track additional conditions, like mental and behavioral health. And we’ll include analysis of health inequities for people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community and those facing socio economic challenges. 

For me, the process of creating this during a time of devastation has helped me translate mourning into meaning. Future generations deserve more complete, accurate, and representative data that can advance health equity in times of crisis and beyond

Watch Satcher Health Leadership Institute’s YouTube series to learn more about health equity tracker and the Google.org fellows who worked on it. 

Technology can strengthen the U.S.-Korea alliance

Tomorrow, President Biden will hold his first bilateral summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Washington, DC. The visit comes nearly 15 years after the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was signed, creating a historic economic and strategic partnership between our nations.

As a former trade negotiator for the U.S. government, I helped negotiate this agreement to further the United States’ and Korea’s shared goal of lowering trade barriers and strengthening our economic cooperation. In the years since KORUS was signed, I’m proud to see how much the U.S-Korea economic relationship has matured. Bilateral trade in goods and services has increased from $104 billion in 2007 to nearly $170 billion in 2019. U.S. exports to Korea today support an estimated 358,000 jobs. And KORUS has shown that government leadership can spur private sector collaboration, unlocking new opportunities for cooperation across the Pacific and benefiting consumers. 

Google’s experiences offer a great case in point. Over the past decade, we have partnered with great Korean companies to bring better products to consumers in Korea, the U.S. and the world. For example, we have closely collaborated with companies like Samsung and LG to expand access to innovative smartphones and devices for everyone. That, in turn, has nurtured a digital economy where developers are able to distribute their apps to global markets and grow their businesses. Just this week, we announced our newest initiative: Google and Samsung are unifying our wearable device operating systems, which will provide consumers with powerful health information and the ability to communicate on the go, while creating new opportunities for developers and device makers. We’ve similarly had great partnerships with other Korean technology leaders like SK, Hyundai Motor, Kakao, NCSoft, Nexon and NetMarble.

Today, the U.S. and Korea are at an important inflection point in our economic alliance, as our nations recover from the effects of COVID-19. We can reenergize our bilateral relationship by partnering even more closely on technology. The U.S. and Korea are among the world’s leaders in technology — in everything from smartphones and software to apps and artificial intelligence. These complementary strengths present an enormous opportunity for deeper collaboration. 

There is, however, still a great deal of work ahead to realize that opportunity. There remain a number of areas where collaboration would be strengthened by better alignment on technology and digital regulation and policy. As we have seen globally in recent years, unilateral attempts to regulate the digital economy deter trade and create obstacles for greater investment. Inconsistent regulations make it harder for companies to work together, increase costs for consumers, and risk fragmenting the global, open internet that both countries rely on.

That’s why we believe Presidents Biden and Moon should launch a high-level dialogue on technology issues. Such a dialogue would elevate the importance of technology cooperation, enhance supply chain resiliency and promote common rules of the road for the digital space that will preserve an open, free and secure global internet. This dialogue would also help the two countries jointly address challenges in the technology space that risk deterring trade in our sector and beyond.

An enhanced technology relationship would serve the two countries’ economic interests, including the thousands of American and Korean small and medium-sized businesses that rely on digital tools to reach customers and stay connected. And it's not just our economies that would benefit. Increasingly, technology cooperation is also at the core of our security alliance. A common approach to digital standards and mutual commitment to transparent, non-discriminatory, and interoperable regulatory frameworks would reinforce that alliance, while also enabling digital cooperation across the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. 

The U.S.-Korea alliance has endured because of our shared values and belief that we are best positioned to tackle future challenges working in partnership. Technology represents the future of both our economies. By putting digital cooperation high on the bilateral agenda and launching a technology dialogue, the U.S. and Korea can give new momentum to our economic and strategic alliance, propelling it for the next 15 years. 

Why we’re rallying support for immigration rights

The ability to recruit and retain the world’s best talent is crucial to America’s economic success  — and it has been from the beginning.

Whether by founding companies or developing life-saving vaccines, immigrants have pioneered many of the breakthroughs that fuel our economy and make the U.S. a technological leader — including sparking 30% of all U.S. innovation since 1974. That is why we have advocated for a fair and competitive immigration system. And that is why now — as the U.S. emerges from a pandemic only to face unprecedented global competition — we support a system that offers opportunities to highly-skilled workers and their families, and cements the citizenship of Dreamers, rather than miring immigrants in decade-long application backlogs.

A fair immigration system is necessary to preserve America’s laudable history of welcoming people from different places and to fuel a virtuous cycle of innovation. Unfortunately, an impending court case is putting both at risk at the most inopportune moment.

The case in question is an attempt to end the issuing of work authorization (H-4 EAD) for certain spouses of high-skilled talent who have come to this country on H-1B visas. In other words, it seeks to end the ability of highly-skilled immigrants’ partners from working in the United States. This H-4 EAD program provides work authorization to more than 90,000 H-4 visa-holders — more than 90% of whom are women. The pandemic has already disproportionately impacted women and ending this program would only make things worse, leading to disrupted careers and lost wages. Furthemore, if the program is lost, the practical effect is that we welcome a person to the U.S. to work but we make it harder for their spouse to work. That hurts their family, impacts our ability to compete for talent, and harms our economy.

To support this important program, we are leading an amicus brief with over 40 companies and organizations to preserve and protect the H-4 EAD program. This builds on an amicus brief we recently joined in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association to expedite the delayed processing time of H-4 work authorizations.

As an immigrant myself, I have been the beneficiary of a welcoming America and I hope we can ensure that same welcome for future immigrants by preserving the H-4 EAD program. Ending this program would hurt families and undercut the US economy at a critical moment. To read the legal details of why we are urging the court to reject this attempt to end the H-4 EAD please click here.

Google’s partnerships with international organizations

Whether it’s a pandemic, climate change, or the health of the global economy, many of the problems of our era can only be effectively addressed by collaboration across borders. In an interconnected world, such collaboration depends on international organizations that bring together governments, the private sector and civil society. And we think technology can help.

We’ve recently seen how technology-enabled solutions like smartphone-based exposure notifications can support public health authorities in the fight against COVID-19, machine-learning models can reduce energy consumption, and AI can address cybersecurity challenges posed by hackers and spam.  We at Google are proud to be investing billions in R&D each year to innovate new technologies to help address the world’s biggest cross-border problems.

To be sure, our relationship with international institutions is a two-way street. Our development of new technologies is guided by multilateral frameworks like the United Nations (UN) Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. More broadly, we, like every company, benefit from the good work done by institutions ranging from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the World Bank in securing public health, strengthening the global economy and resolving conflict. And we value international organizations' ability to shape global agendas and drive multi-stakeholder consensus — like how the OECD is working to reform global tax regimes or the World Trade Organization is working to promote a framework for digital trade.

This year, Google’s plan is to accelerate our partnerships with international organizations on four fronts.

1. Slowing the pandemic and supporting economic recovery.At the beginning of the pandemic, we wanted to help people find answers by surfacing critical information and leading global initiatives like “Do the Five” and “Wear a Mask.” For the first time, we partnered with the WHO to run public service health announcements through Google Search and YouTube. This partnershiphas led to campaigns in more than 100 countries and has driven over 1 billion ads served (impressions, or views) and 115 million clicks to the WHO website, educating users about the disease and fighting the infodemic. In recent months, we’ve turned our focus to helping millions of people around the world acquire the necessary skills to participate in the post-pandemic digital economy, and we’ll continue to support digital transformation of economies and communities to ensure that we step back into a stronger, resilient and more inclusive world.

2. Artificial intelligence and innovation.Building off our longstanding support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we will continue to work with UN agencies to develop AI in a way that meaningfully improves people’s lives. For example, we’ve partnered with the UN World Food Programme to develop an AI-enabled tool to improve the delivery of disaster aid, and with UN-ESCAP and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities to launch an AI for Social Good report. We believe AI can be a transformational tool to support the goals of multilateral institutions.

3. Sustainability.Sustainability has been a core Google value since our founding. Now in our third decade of climate action, we’re working to help fulfill the vision of the UN SDGs and the Paris Agreement, becoming the largest annual corporate purchaser of renewable energy andcommitting to operate 24/7 on carbon-free energy by 2030. But we are also taking action far beyond our own operations, working with international organizations like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to create tools like the Environmental Insights Explorer and our breakthrough AI for building energy efficiency that help everyone move towards a carbon-free world.

4. Open internet and human rights. The advent of the internet a generation ago fast-tracked human rights around the world in a way history had never seen. Google's commitment to human rights, including to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, dates back to our earliest years. Cognizant of the alarming realities behind the gendered impact of the pandemic, we have had a particular focus on gender equality. That's why Google joined the Generation Equality Forum as a member of the Action Coalition for Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality; our Ad Grants partnership with UN Women has already enabled over seven million public service announcements in over 237 countries, raising awareness of the outsized impact of COVID-19 on women and girls. This year we also launched the Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls, a first-of-its-kind program to empower women and girls to reach their full economic potential.

While we accelerate our work in these four areas, Google is committed to supporting international organizations to tackle the next generation of cross-border challenges that lay over the horizon. In an era of growing skepticism of government institutions, that starts by rebuilding trust and consensus in the value of working globally to solve problems.

As a technology company inspired by the power of human resilience, we can think of no better way to honor the setbacks, sacrifices and hardships of a battle-wearied world than to work with organizations committed to helping everyone — and doing our part by building the tools and technologies to make their vision possible.

Seizing the moment – A framework for American innovation

Decades of government investment in R&D led to scientific breakthroughs that gave us the tools we use every day, and public-private partnerships have sparked innovations from the microchip to the internet. Government R&D investment has led to economic growth, jobs and new startups. As just one example, some of Google’s earliest work was made possible, in part, by the Digital Library Initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation.

But if you fast forward to today, the U.S. government investment in tech has moved to the slow lane. Government-funded research in the U.S. has fallen by 60% as a percentage of GDP — from 1.9% of GDP in 1964 to just 0.7% today. Many countries around the world are investing significantly in research and development. For example, China has said that it will be increasing government R&D funding by 7% annually and recently announced a five-year plan to invest an additional $1.4 trillion in developing next-generation technologies.

As a nation we now have a historic opportunity to put aside partisanship and come together on an issue that will determine our future competitiveness. The United States must seize the moment to cultivate science and technology by setting out a national innovation strategy, and we commit to doing our part.

Senators Schumer and Young have introduced the bipartisan Endless Frontier Act — an important step in putting to work America’s strengths in science and technology to tackle some of the biggest issues of our time, from climate change to global health. Legislative proposals to increase funding for the National Science Foundation will accelerate innovation in the technologies of the future — including quantum computing, AI, biotech and genomics, advanced wireless networks, and robotics — and strengthen the U.S. innovation ecosystem through regional hubs spread throughout the country.

We are also encouraged to see that key components of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan call for increased investment in R&D, including focus on advanced manufacturing, support for underrepresented students in STEM, and collaboration with U.S. universities. We hope Congress can come together in a bipartisan way to support extra investment in research and development.

Beyond direct support for R&D, our national innovation strategy should include support for immigration reform, entrepreneurial start-ups, regulatory clarity, and open data and interoperability.

America’s leadership in science and technology comes in part from our unmatched ability to recruit, train, and retain the world’s best talent. Our doors must be open to the best and the brightest, and we should make it easier for experts in vital technology fields to come to the United States and help grow our innovation economy. In parallel, a renewed focus on STEM education, skills-based training, and school-to-work apprenticeship programs will empower American workers and promote job and wage growth around the country.

America’s innovation framework should work for businesses of all sizes.  At a time when we’re seeing record-setting investment in the promise of new companies, the government can pitch in by expanding access to public resources such as data, software, and computing infrastructure. Streamlined government contracting will also make it easier for startups to bid for large contracts and gain commercial opportunities.

Tech breakthroughs are built on accumulated and shared knowledge — we all stand on the shoulders of others. Data interoperability and open-source software help all of us, including smaller companies and research organizations. The government should promote interoperability, open data, and open-source applications by more actively sharing public data and contributing to open-source platforms.

Clear, balanced and consistent regulations can unlock innovation while protecting consumers and ensuring an equal playing field. Any new generation of technology raises important new questions and requires a balancing of concerns. At the same time, streamlining regulatory burdens can speed great new products to market, helping smaller companies who can struggle to comply with costly or complex rules.

Larger companies like Google and Alphabet have an important role to play in supporting this work, and our public reports show that we’ve invested more than $100 billion in R&D over the last five years. We’ll keep publishing our findings in scientific journals and support public research through public-private partnerships, like our work with NSF on the National AI Research Institute for Human-AI Interaction and Collaboration and our breakthroughs in quantum computing. We also launched Google Career Certificates to help workers develop the skills they need and share in the benefits of growing industries. And because open data and open-source code are essential for innovation, we host a large number ofpublicly available datasets, services, and software accessible to everyone.

We welcome the moves made in recent days and weeks to support America’s innovation leadership.  We’ll continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with government, academic institutions, and others to do our part.

The U.S. and Europe should launch a trade and technology council

Two decades ago, countries saw global trade in technology goods and services as an on-ramp to the economy of the 21st century. International agreements to eliminate barriers to trade in technology goods and services helped enable dramatic increases in technology trade, while countries looked to promote foreign investment in the cutting-edge technologies of the future.  Consumers everywhere got access to new, lower-priced technology, millions of jobs were created and businesses from Paris to Pittsburgh have been able to reach new customers around the world, generating trillions of dollars in sales.

Times have changed: We’re all using digital tools, and recognizing the risks of abuse and the need for responsible innovation. But while well-crafted regulation can help unlock the benefits of technology, an explosion in national policies is detering trade in technology. Those barriers include not just tariffs (which have also beset other sectors), but also trade controls, discriminatory taxes, investment restrictions and novel digital regulations aimed straight at foreign-headquartered companies. In short, we’re seeing the erosion of a carefully nurtured global trading system that has contributed to progress and prosperity in the U.S. and around the world.  

This erosion of trade norms isn’t limited to the U.S.-China relationship. Even more concerningly, the technology trade relationship between the U.S. and Europe — once one of the closest in the world — is fraying.  

In Washington, in recent years, “transatlantic tech policy” has been largely reduced to pressing Europe to follow U.S. supply chain initiatives. Meanwhile Europe has undertaken a broad series of unilateral initiatives in areas ranging from digital taxes to market regulation. Transatlantic coordination has largely become an afterthought, if it’s thought of at all. 

These policy trends hurt both the U.S. and European economies, risking the 16 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic linked to transatlantic trade and investment. They also make it harder for the U.S. and the EU to address new global technology challenges and partner with emerging economies in Asia.

But there’s a better path forward. Coming out of the pandemic, with new momentum behind bilateral cooperation, we have a chance to revitalize the transatlantic technology trade relationship.

The European Commission recently proposed an EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC).  The United States should accept the invitation — and build on it. An expedited high-level trade dialogue on technology issues is critical to avoid unilateral approaches on pressing issues like data flows that are essential to commerce, regulation of digital platforms that we all use every day, and other essential components of a modern economy. A TTC could also prevent divergence on emerging areas like artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies and promote cooperation on third-country technology challenges. 

Of course a TTC needs to be set up for success. When entering trade negotiations, each side typically avoids preemptive or unilateral actions that might foreclose meaningful alignment. In entering a TTC, both sides should commit to meaningful consultation before taking any further actions harming transatlantic tech trade. The U.S. should not enact new privacy or technology trade control regulations without consulting with the EU; the EU should pursue bilateral consultation to ensure technology initiatives like the Digital Markets Act reflect the EU-U.S. values-based alliance. Quickly forming a TTC can help drive a consistent and non-discriminatory approach on these challenging new areas of technology regulation.

The need for alignment has never been greater or more urgent. An aligned approach will promote more tech-enabled economic growth; tech-supported measures to tackle other shared challenges like climate change; and new norms to ensure that technology will — in the words of  U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken — “protect your privacy, make the world safer and healthier, and make democracies more resilient.” 

The historic partnership between Europe and the U.S. faces a profound challenge — but also an opportunity to re-build based on shared values of openness and connectivity. As European Commission Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis said recently: “The bottom line is simple: whatever challenges the EU and U.S. face, there is no stronger values-based alliance in the world … So, even if the current crisis feeds the temptation to look inward, this is not the answer.” We couldn’t agree more.

Google’s €25 million contribution to media literacy

While navigating the uncertainty and challenges of the last year, it has proven more important than ever for people to access accurate information, and sort facts from fiction. That’s why Google is contributing €25 million to help launch the European Media and Information Fund to strengthen media literacy skills, fight misinformation and support fact checking. Our goal is to ensure that you and your family get the information you want, the answers you need and the accuracy you deserve.

Our five-year commitment will support the work of the European University Institute, the European Digital Media Observatory and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to fund organizations seeking to address key challenges:

  • Help adults and young people strengthen their media literacy skills
  • Support and scale the critical work of fact-checkers 
  • Strengthen the expertise, research and resources to help fight misinformation

As the first to contribute to the European Media and Information Fund, we welcome and encourage other organizations to follow our lead and support this important work. It is clear there is an unmet demand for funding and research, with fewer than one in 10 Europeans having participated in any form of online media literacy training, according to a recent report.  

In the coming weeks, the Fund will open for proposals from academics, nonprofits and publishers based in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Independent committees made up of industry experts will select the winning ideas and Google won't be involved in any decision making related to the Fund. 

Our commitment today builds on our previous grants to fact checkers and nonprofits, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, and our work to tackle misinformation in the run up to other major events, such as elections. Since 2015, we’ve provided funding and technical support to organizations focused on misinformation, including innovative new models like CrossCheck in France, and provided digital verification training to 90,000 European journalists, receiving over 400,000 visits to our training website

And we’re of course continuing our other efforts to support media literacy for young people, with Be Internet Legends and Be Internet Citizens providing digital skills to help schoolchildren and teenagers verify and fact-check. Through our philanthropic arm, Google.org, we’ve provided €3.2 million in funding since 2018 to programs like Newswise, The Student View and Weitklick, and through the Google News Initiative additional funding to support Students for President and Zeit für Lehrer.

If you represent an organization with an idea, you can learn more about the Fund and find out when applications open by registering on this website.

Sundar Pichai’s testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce

Editor’s Note: Today our CEO Sundar Pichai testified along with the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter at a hearing hosted by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce focused on social media’s role in promoting misinformation. In his opening written statement, Sundar highlighted Google and YouTube’s efforts to provide trustworthy content and opportunities for free expression across our platforms, while combating harmful misinformation around the U.S. 2020 elections, the COVID-19 pandemic and more. Read it in full below.

Chairman Doyle, Ranking Member Latta, Chairwoman Schakowsky, Ranking Member Bilirakis, Full Committee Chair Pallone and Full Committee Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

This month, the worldwide web turned 32. Over the past three decades, we’ve seen the web inspire the best in society, by expanding knowledge, powering businesses, and providing opportunities for expression, discovery, and connection — no matter who you are, or where you live.

I joined Google in 2004 because I believed the internet was the best way to bring the benefits of technology to more people, and I believe that still today. 

I am proud that Americans can turn to Google for help in moments that matter, whether they’re looking for COVID vaccine information on Search and Maps, working and learning from home using Google Workspace or Google Classroom, learning new skills on YouTube, or using our digital tools to grow their businesses. In 2020, our products helped 2 million U.S. businesses, publishers, and others generate $426 billion in economic activity. And we helped billions of people find comfort and connection in an otherwise awful year. 

Beyond our products, we were proud to announce last week our plans to invest over $7 billion in data centers and offices across 19 states, and create at least 10,000 full-time Google jobs in the U.S. That’s in addition to the 84,000 employees we currently employ across the country. And according to an Oxford Economics report, YouTube's creative ecosystem supported the equivalent of 345,000 full time jobs in 2019. 

We are energized by the opportunity to help people at scale, and we are humbled by the responsibility that comes with it. We have thousands of people focused on everything from cyber attacks, to data privacy, to today’s topic: misinformation. 

Our mission at Google is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Core to that mission is providing trustworthy content and opportunities for free expression across our platforms, while limiting the reach of harmful misinformation.

It’s a large, dynamic challenge without easy answers. More than 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and approximately 15% of the searches on Google each day are new to us. Eighteen months ago most people hadn’t heard of COVID-19; sadly, coronavirus was the top trending search of 2020.

Responding to the events of January 6

Staying ahead of these challenges and keeping users safe and secure on our platforms is a top priority. We saw how high those stakes can be on January 6, 2021, when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. This was an unprecedented and tragic event, and Google strongly condemns these violent attacks on our democracy, and mourns the lives lost. 

In response, our teams worked to raise up authoritative news sources across our products. Teams at YouTube quickly took down any live streams or videos that violated our incitement to violence policies, and on January 7, we began issuing strikes to those in violation of our presidential election integrity policy. In the Play Store, we removed apps for violating our policies on inciting violence. We also prohibited advertisers from running ads that referenced the 2020 election or topics related to the Capitol riots in the scope of our Sensitive Events policy. 

Doing our part to contribute to the integrity of the U.S. 2020 election

We were able to act quickly because of the investments we made to prepare for the 2020 elections. Last year, teams across Google and YouTube worked around the clock to contribute to election preparedness, by helping voters find authoritative information about the election; by working with campaigns to equip them with best-in-class security features and helping them connect with voters; and by protecting our platforms from abuse. 

Helping voters find authoritative information on our services

This U.S. election cycle saw all-time highs in searches on Google for civics-related topics. Anticipating that need, we worked to launch features that would help people find the information to participate in the democratic process, including how to register and how to vote in their states. 

Consistent with our approach to prior election cycles, we showed “how to register” and “how to vote” reminders to all our U.S. users directly on Google Search, Maps and YouTube. These reminders were seen over 2 billion times across our products. As the election neared, we helped people find polling and ballot drop off locations: From mid-October through Election Day, we added more than 125,000 voting locations in Google Maps. Across our products, these features were seen nearly 500 million times. 

Finally, starting on Election Day, we worked with the Associated Press to provide real-time election results for relevant searches on Google. These results had over six times more views in 2020 than in 2016. Similarly, on YouTube, we launched an election results information panel that showed on top of search results and under videos with election-related content. It pointed to our election results page on Google, and over time, we expanded it to include an additional link pointing to a page on the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) website that debunked incorrect claims made about the integrity of the elections. Once the safe harbor deadline for state certification passed, we updated this YouTube Election Results Information Panel again to point to the National Archives Office of the Federal Register page of record for the 2020 electoral college vote. Collectively, our election information panels on YouTube have been shown over 8 billion times. 

Working with campaigns

We also helped campaigns and elected officials effectively use Google and YouTube products to reach voters and enhance their election security. As part of our Civics Outreach Virtual Training Series, Google held 21 training sessions for over 900 candidates, campaigns, public officials, and nonprofit leaders. Overall, we held 45 group and individual trainings to help more than 2,900 election workers learn to use Google tools to amplify their message and better connect with voters through events like digital town halls, debates and virtual campaign rallies.

In addition, as a part of our Election Cybersecurity Initiative with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, nearly 4,000 elected officials, secretaries of state, campaign staffers, political party representatives, and state election directors in all 50 states received training on ways to secure their information and protect their campaigns against cyberattacks. 

At the start of the 2020 election season, we partnered with Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, to give any eligible federal campaign access to free Titan Security Keys — the strongest form of two-factor authentication. This collaboration is a part of our Advanced Protection Program, which protects high-risk individuals, such as election officials, campaigns, and journalists, who have access to high visibility and sensitive information. In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, DDC distributed more than 10,000 Titan Security key bundles to more than 140 U.S. federal campaigns. We recently expanded our support for DDC to provide eligible campaigns and political parties, committees, and related organizations, at both the federal and state levels, with knowledge, training and resources to defend themselves from security threats.

Protecting our platforms from abuse

In the years leading up to the 2020 election, we made numerous enhancements to protect the integrity of elections around the world and better secure our platforms. Among them, we introduced strict policies and processes for identity verification for advertisers who run election-related advertising on our platform; we launched comprehensive political ad libraries in the U.S. and in other countries around the world; we developed and implemented policies to prohibit election-related abuse such as voter suppression and deceptive practices on platforms like YouTube, Google Ads, Google Maps and Google Play; our Threat Analysis Group (TAG) launched a quarterly bulletin to provide regular updates on our work to combat coordinated influence operations across our platforms and flagged phishing attempts against the presidential campaigns; and we worked closely with government agencies, including the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, and other companies to share information around suspected election interference campaigns. 

On YouTube, throughout 2020, we identified and removed content that was misleading voters about where or how to vote, to help ensure viewers saw accurate information about the upcoming election. After December 8, which marked the "safe harbor" deadline for states to certify their election, in accordance with our Presidential Election Integrity policy we began to remove content uploaded on or after December 9 that misled people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In addition, we continued to enforce our broader policies — for instance, from October to December 2020, we removed 13,000 YouTube channels for promoting violence and violent extremism; 89% of videos removed for violating our violent extremism policy were taken down before they had 10 views. 

This work was in addition to improvements in the ranking systems we use to reduce the spread of harmful misinformation on YouTube: In January 2019, we announced that we would begin reducing recommendations of borderline content or videos that could misinform viewers in harmful ways but that do not violate YouTube Community Guidelines. Since then, we've launched numerous changes to reduce recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation, and we continue to invest in this work: Our models review more than 100,000 hours of videos every day to find and limit the spread of borderline content.

Our work is never done, and we continue to learn and improve from one election cycle to the next, and continue to evolve our policies. That principle has guided our approach to new and evolving challenges, including COVID-19 misinformation.

Addressing the challenge of COVID-19 misinformation

This past year we’ve also focused on providing quality information during the pandemic. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, teams across Google have worked to provide quality information and resources to help keep people safe, and to provide public health, scientists and medical professionals with tools to combat the pandemic. We’ve launched more than 200 new products, features and initiatives — including the Exposure Notification API to assist contact tracing — and have pledged over $1 billion to assist our users, customers and partners around the world. 

Today, when people search on Google for information for COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, we present them with a list of authorized vaccines in their location, with information on each individual vaccine from the FDA or CDC, as relevant. We also provide them with information about vaccination locations near them in Google Search and Google Maps, when that information is available. On YouTube, we launched COVID-19 information panels directing viewers to the CDC’s information about the virus and, later on, about vaccines. These information panels are featured on the YouTube homepage, and on videos and in search results about the pandemic. Since March 2020, they have been viewed over 400 billion times. And we continue to work with YouTube creators to pair them with health experts who can get the facts to a wide range of audiences — we promote this content in our “ask the experts” feature.

Another way we’ve been helping is by offering over $350 million in Ad Grants to help more than 100 government agencies and non-profit organizations around the world run critical public service announcements (PSAs) about COVID-19. Grantees can use these funds throughout 2021 for things like vaccine education and outreach campaigns. 

In parallel to our efforts to elevate authoritative information about the pandemic and vaccines, we have worked across our services to combat harmful misinformation about these topics. Across our products, we’ve had long-standing policies prohibiting harmful and misleading medical or health-related content. When COVID-19 hit, our Trust and Safety team worked to stop a variety of abuses stemming from the pandemic, including phishing attempts, malware, dangerous conspiracy theories, and fraud schemes. We took quick action to remove content that promoted inaccurate or misleading claims about cures, masks, and vaccines; our teams have removed 850,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading COVID-19 medical information, and in total, we blocked nearly 100 million COVID-related ads throughout 2020. Our teams have also been planning for new threats and abuse patterns related specifically to COVID-19 vaccines. For example, in October, we expanded our COVID-19 medical misinformation policy on YouTube to remove content about vaccines that contradicts consensus from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Developing clear and transparent policies

We were able to act quickly and decisively because of the significant investments we have made over years, not only to make information useful and accessible, but also to remove and reduce the spread of harmful misinformation. Across all of this work, we strive to have clear and transparent policies and enforce them without regard to political party or point of view. We work to raise up authoritative sources, and reduce the spread of misinformation in recommendations and elsewhere. Teams across the company work in a variety of roles to help develop and enforce our policies, monitor our platforms for abuse, and protect users from everything from account hijackings and disinformation campaigns to misleading content and inauthentic activity. And we don’t do this work alone; we work closely with experts to stay ahead of emerging threats.

Supporting innovation in journalism and the development of new business models

At Google, we believe that a vibrant news industry is vital to tackling misinformation on a societal scale. We invested millions to support COVID-19 related fact checking initiatives, providing training or resources to nearly 10,000 journalists. In addition to helping journalists tackle misinformation, we have long been committed to supporting newsrooms and journalists in the United States and abroad. Over the past 20 years, we have collaborated closely with the news industry and provided billions of dollars to support the creation of quality journalism in the digital age. 

We share a strong interest in supporting a diverse and sustainable ecosystem of quality news providers. Our products are designed to elevate high quality journalism and connect consumers to diverse news sites — from global media companies to smaller digital startups. 

We are proud that our services help people all over the world find relevant, authoritative news about issues that matter to them. Each month, people click through from Google Search and Google News results to publishers' websites more than 24 billion times — that’s over 9,000 clicks per second. This free traffic helps new publishers increase their readership, build trust with readers and earn money through advertising and subscriptions. We also recently announced a new investment in Google News Showcase and committed $1 billion over the next three years to pay publishers to produce editorially curated content experiences and for limited free user access to paywalled content. In less than one year, we have been able to partner with over 500 publications across more than a dozen countries, spanning global, national, regional, metro and local publications.

Our commitment to the future of news extends beyond our products and services. We launched the Google News Initiative to support journalistic innovation and the emergence of new business models. Since 2018, we have committed $61 million in funding to support more than 2,000 news partners across the United States and Canada. As part of this initiative, we have also helped more than 447,200 journalists develop knowledge and skills in digital journalism through in person and online trainings through the Google News Lab. And when the pandemic hit, we turned our resources to support local news organizations and fact-checkers — contributing $10.6 million to over 1,800 local newsrooms across the U.S. and Canada through our Journalism Emergency Relief Fund and committing $6.5 million to combat Covid-19 misinformation. We look forward to continuing this work with our partners in the news industry to ensure a thriving and healthy future for journalism.

The role of Section 230 in fighting misinformation

These are just some of the tangible steps we’ve taken to support high-quality journalism and protect our users online, while preserving people’s right to express themselves freely. Our ability to provide access to a wide range of information and viewpoints, while also being able to remove harmful content like misinformation, is made possible because of legal frameworks like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. 

Section 230 is foundational to the open web: It allows platforms and websites, big and small, across the entire internet, to responsibly manage content to keep users safe and promote access to information and free expression. Without Section 230, platforms would either over-filter content or not be able to filter content at all. In the fight against misinformation, Section 230 allows companies to take decisive action on harmful misinformation and keep up with bad actors who work hard to circumvent their policies.

Thanks to Section 230, consumers and businesses of all kinds benefit from unprecedented access to information and a vibrant digital economy. Today, more people have the opportunity to create content, start a business online, and have a voice than ever before. At the same time, it is clear that there is so much more work to be done to address harmful content and behavior, both online and offline.

Regulation has an important role to play in ensuring that we protect what is great about the open web, while addressing harm and improving accountability. We are, however, concerned that many recent proposals to change Section 230 — including calls to repeal it altogether — would not serve that objective well. In fact, they would have unintended consequences — harming both free expression and the ability of platforms to take responsible action to protect users in the face of constantly evolving challenges. 

We might better achieve our shared objectives by focusing on ensuring transparent, fair, and effective processes for addressing harmful content and behavior. Solutions might include developing content policies that are clear and accessible, notifying people when their content is removed and giving them ways to appeal content decisions, and sharing how systems designed for addressing harmful content are working over time. With this in mind, we are committed not only to doing our part on our services, but also to improving transparency across our industry.

I look forward to sharing more about our approach with you today, and working together to create a path forward for the web’s next three decades.

The 2012 FTC staff papers

A recent D.C. parlor game has been to second-guess the Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 decision to close its antitrust investigation into Google. (That investigation looked at search design, similar to the case filed last year by various state attorneys general.) In response to recent speculation in the press about the FTC’s decision, we wanted to set the record straight.

In a unanimous, bipartisan decision, all five FTC Commissioners concluded that the evolution of Google Search was designed to “improve the quality” of search results and “likely benefited consumers.”

Now, the staff papers and memos that helped inform this decision have been made public. 

These documents show why, after a comprehensive review, the Federal Trade Commissioners all voted to close their investigation nearly a decade ago. The memos conclusively confirm that the decision to not bring an antitrust case against the design of Google’s search engine was supported by clear and unambiguous recommendations by all sections of the FTC who reviewed it, including the Bureau of Competition, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Bureau of Economics and the Office of the General Counsel. 

It’s also clear from the papers how actively Microsoft and other rivals were encouraging these complaints. The FTC put consumers' interests in higher-quality search results over the interests of a powerful commercial rival, which has since grown even further, to become the second-biggest company in the U.S. by market capitalization.  

The memos also show that the FTC and its staff looked in detail at our Android and Apple distribution agreements (the subject of the Department of Justice’s current case) and, after uncovering evidence that people can readily choose alternatives but “overwhelmingly” prefer Google, declined to challenge them.

Some highlights:

People choose to use Google.

  • One click away:“The argument that competition is just ‘one click away’ is a compelling one.” (Bureau of Competition staff memo)

  • Users prefer Google: “Like the wireless carriers, Apple states [Google] is the overwhelming preference of its customers.” (Bureau of Competition staff memo)

  • Partners prefer Google:“The companies have made it apparent to Staff that they have no interest in being released from their current contracts, and little interest in pursuing negotiations with alternative search providers.” (Bureau of Competition staff memo)

Google Search benefits users.

  • Universal Search was indisputably a product improvement:“First, I endorse the staff’s recommendation not to bring a case on search preferencing. To bring such a case would intrude deeply into product design, an area into which courts have been extremely reluctant to go unless the design feature in question has no legitimate justification. … Universal Search was indisputably a product improvement…”(General Counsel memo)

  • Universal Search benefits users: “Google's documents show that Universal Search was a procompetitive response to pressure from vertical sites and general search sites and an improvement for users.”(Bureau of Economics staff memo)

  • Substantial benefit for users:“Universal Search is a ‘product improvement’ that has resulted in substantial benefit to its users...Google's organization and aggregation of content from other websites adds value to the product for consumers.”(Bureau of Competition staff memo)

  • Google’s search practices benefit users:“Google can legitimately claim that at least part of the conduct at issue improves its product and benefits users.”(Bureau of Competition staff memo)

Google’s distribution agreements

  • Our search distribution agreements with web browsers, like Apple’s Safari browser, aren’t exclusive: “[W]e find strong reasons for doubting that ... default status on web browsers (both desktop and mobile) can be properly viewed as ‘exclusives’ in the sense that users are unable, with relatively low cost, to access rival search engines.” (Bureau of Economics staff memo) 

  • Our Android agreements aren’t exclusive:“As an initial matter, recall that Google’s agreements with smartphone manufacturers do not actually require exclusivity. Rather, they are contracts that require Google search to be the initially installed default search engine. Consumers are free to switch to other search engines, or even to replace Google as their default search engine, should they wish to do so.”(Bureau of Economics staff memo)

Google faces competition from specialized search engines.

  • Search and vertical search compete:“[S]ubstantial documentary evidence that Google competes against specialized search engines for certain types of queries. Google's competition with specialized search engines is similar to a supermarket's competition with a convenience store.” (Lead staff economists)

Google’s Apple agreement

Lead staff economists on the Google investigation:

  • Apple chooses Google because it’s the “best”:“Apple stated... ‘Apple's focus is offering its customers the best products out of the box while allowing them to make choices after purchase. In many countries, Google offers the best product or service.’” 

  • The agreement is not exclusive: Additionally, similar to the desktop Safari agreement, both Microsoft and Yahoo are preloaded alternatives to Google in mobile Safari. According to Apple, to change the default, go to "Settings> Safari > Search Engine."

  • Switching search engines is trivial:"[C]hanging the default search option on mobile browsers involves a few taps and downloading other search apps can be achieved in a few seconds. These are trivial switching costs."

Overall conclusion

  • No antitrust violation:“[I]n my judgment at least, the weight of the available evidence...indicates that Google's conduct has not risen to the level of an antitrust violation.” (Deputy Director in the Bureau of Economics)

  • Consensus:“I agree with both [Bureau of Competition] and [Bureau of Economics] staff recommendations that the Commission not issue a complaint or pursue remedies for discriminatory ‘search preferencing’ by Google.”(Head of the Bureau of Economics)

  • Staff raise doubts about the case: “We have identified throughout this memorandum the many substantial risks associated with bringing a case against Google. On a global level, the record will permit Google to show substantial innovation, intense competition from Microsoft and others, and speculative long-run harm.“ (Bureau of Competition staff memo)

Let’s finalize an international tax deal

For several years, governments around the world have been meeting at the OECD to reform the international corporate tax system. Not surprisingly, success hasn’t come quickly. This isn’t an easy task – but it remains a critical one. As the world economy seeks to recover from the global pandemic and governments face new fiscal pressures, an agreed solution is needed now more than ever to ensure a durable framework for cross-border trade and investment.

Tomorrow’s meeting of G20 finance ministers represents an important opportunity to give this process new momentum. For the new Biden Administration, the meeting represents a chance to underscore its commitment to the OECD-led multilateral process and to fair, comprehensive, and coordinated changes to corporate tax policies. And it represents an equally important opportunity for finance ministers from France, the UK, India, Indonesia, and other leading economies to commit to end the headlong rush to discriminatory tax measures that we’ve seen in recent years and work with the U.S. on a durable agreement.

The central question is less about how much corporate income tax companies pay than where they pay it. For Google’s part, our effective tax rate over the past decade has exceeded 20% of our profits, in line with average statutory tax rates. While we’re one of the largest corporate taxpayers in the world, roughly 80% of our corporate income tax has been due in the United States, where Google was founded and where most of our products are developed. The concentration of our tax obligations in our home market mirrors many other multinational companies spanning various industries and countries; foreign firms operating in the U.S. and other countries, for example, also pay the majority of their corporate income taxes in their home countries.

These tax practices are the product of international rules – specifically, international tax treaties that historically have attributed a smaller share of profits to the countries where products and services are consumed, leaving the bulk of taxing rights to the countries where products and services are created.

We have long supported efforts to update international tax rules to arrive at a system where more taxing rights are shifted to countries where products and services are consumed. So, U.S. exports, including a range of technologies, might incur more income tax abroad, while foreign companies exporting to the U.S. would pay more to the U.S. public purse. Like any good agreement, this will require a healthy amount of give-and-take.

Unfortunately, in the absence of multilateral consensus, the world has seen the growth in recent years of taxes targeted at foreign companies. Most prominently, we have seen the growth of so-called “digital services taxes” that aim to raise revenue from a small subset of firms, narrowly defined by revenue thresholds and business models. This selective approach has sparked tensions between the U.S. and some of its allies, pushing countries toward trade disputes that could further damage fragile economies.

Some of the countries imposing these targeted taxes claim they help build momentum for broader international tax reform. But these digital services taxes are complicating efforts to reach a balanced agreement that works for all countries – they’re simply laying claim to income that would otherwise be taxed in the U.S. We encourage these governments to roll back what are essentially tariffs or, at a minimum, suspend them while negotiations continue.

The next few months will test commitments countries have made to reinvigorate international cooperation. Left on the current trajectory, tax discord could quickly yield beggar-thy-neighbor protectionism that would weaken cooperation on many issues. But serious steps forward – starting with the rescission or suspension of existing unilateral taxes – could create new momentum for multilateralism, supporting collaboration on many other important fronts. We urge countries to work together on this critical project, building a firmer foundation for international cooperation in the 21st Century.