New Google fake news project launches ahead of French elections

6 Feb 2017

Alain Juppé in a meeting for the primaries of the political party Les Républicains at Le Zénith, Paris, for the 2017 French presidential election. Image: Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

Having reacted too late to the spread of fake news prior to the election of Donald Trump as US president, Google and Facebook are now planning a pre-emptive strategy ahead of the French elections.

While the build-up to the US presidential elections last year barely mentioned it, the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory put the topic of fake news front and centre, both online and in the newsroom.

While Mark Zuckerberg previously said that it was “crazy” to think that sites like Facebook were powerful enough to potentially influence the outcome of a national election, but the attitude since then has been nothing short of remorseful.

Ahead of the French presidential elections due to take place next April, both Facebook and Google have revealed their intentions to be ahead of the game, to prevent any future spread of agenda-driven content.

According to Google’s News Lab lead in Paris, the search giant is to partner with Facebook and First Draft to advise French media on how to guide the electorate on trustworthy sources.

Called CrossCheck, the platform will partner with news organisations in France, including major names such as Agence France-Presse (APF), Le Monde, Les Echos and BuzzFeed’s French news team.

From photographs to memes

The deal was made following the News Impact Summit held in Paris today (6 February) that will also see Facebook’s own social media tracking platform, CrowdTangle, used to help make sense of the hundreds of different online news sources.

“With a goal of helping the French electorate make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, web searches and general online news consumption in the coming months, we’re working with 17 newsrooms and counting,” said Google’s David Dieudonné.

“With the French presidential election approaching, journalists from across France and beyond will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads [or] news sites.”

Bellingcat – founded by Eliot Higgins – will work with the CrossCheck platform for First Draft, mapping patterns and behaviours within the misinformation ecosystem as part of wider research relating to the European elections.

Alain Juppé at a Les Républicains meeting. Image: Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic