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Google to give €25m to EU fund to 'fight misinformation'

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WATCH: Google pledges nearly $30 million to fight fake news

Alphabet's Google (GOOGL) said it will contribute €25m (£21m,$29m) over five years to the European Media and Information fund in a bid to “strengthen media literacy skills, fight misinformation and support fact checking."

The move comes as tech giants come under fire for fake news about a host of topics from elections to COVID-19 vaccinations and just days after Alphabet chief Sundar Pichai, along with the bosses of Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR), were grilled by US politicians, who want more regulation, over disinformation on their platforms. 

The fund provides grants to researchers, fact-checkers, not-for-profits and other public interest-oriented organisations working on "disinformation research." Google said it will not be involved in deciding who gets these grants.

"As the first to contribute to the European Media and Information Fund, we welcome and encourage other organisations to follow our lead and support this important work," it said in a statement.

"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," it added, citing a recent report by Ipsos Mori.

Chart: Ipsos Mori
Chart: Ipsos Mori

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 UK. Independent committees made up of industry experts will select the best ideas.

“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,” the search giant said.

Google office in Seattle, US. Photo: Getty
Google office in Seattle, US. Photo: Getty

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Earlier, Pichai had said YouTube worked hard last year to identify and remove content that was misleading voters in the US elections.

The issue of fake news has persisted for some time now. About a year ago The Global Disinformation Index said that European fake news sites earn around $75m of advertising a year, much of it placed by Google.

Reuters reported last year that there were posts doing the rounds on Facebook that falsely claimed Google search results can provide proof that the pandemic is not real.

This is not the first move made by Google to combat the problem. In 2018, it announced the Google News Initiative, through which it is training journalists on the latest verification tools and technology.

In its first year, it said it had trained nearly 300,000 journalists, with a goal to reach 500,000 journalists by 2020.

Back in 2018 it launched a fact checking project to help people find articles that check claims made on the web. It also launched a feature on YouTube in India that automatically surfaces third-party fact checks from eligible publishers alongside YouTube search results.

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