Tackling misinformation: What exactly is the Google News Initiative?

21 Mar 2018

Google logo. Image: testing/Shutterstock

The Google News Initiative intends to be a global expansion of the company’s existing media industry supports.

Google is launching a new effort to bolster quality journalism in this age of misinformation, confusion and inflammatory content.

The company already has a European project called the Digital News Initiative, but it intends to broaden the scheme across the world.

Future Human

The Google News Initiative has three specific goals in mind.

Elevating good journalism

The first goal is to “elevate and strengthen quality journalism”. Google is launching the Disinfo Lab to fight disinformation during elections and breaking news events. It is partnering with organisations such as Stanford University to launch MediaWise, a US project to boost digital literacy levels in young people.

The second aim is to help journalistic business models evolve to ensure sustainable growth. For this, the company is launching Subscribe With Google, a way for people to subscribe to various news outlets. Publishers will also be shown new ways to grow subscriptions using the tech giant’s vast quantities of data, machine learning and DoubleClick infrastructure. Google said it is using its natural language processing API to help Hearst Newspapers sort, label and categorise more than 3,000 articles daily.

A new dashboard called News Consumer Insights will exist in addition to Google Analytics, helping news organisations to organise and segment their audiences. The company claims that the tool helped US newspaper The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reach a 150pc increase in page views to its subscribe page and a tripling of new digital subscription purchases month over month.

For the final goal, new tools will be created by Google to empower news organisations. This includes Outline, an open source tool from Google tech incubator Jigsaw, which enables news organisations to provide journalists with more security tools to aid their work. Outline will help news organisations set up a corporate VPN and Google claims that it never logs your web traffic. The tool also features encryption and automatic updates.

Creating transparency in media

Google said that although its existing collaborations such as the Digital News Lab are useful, there needs to be more work undertaken to create a more transparent media landscape.

“We invested a lot time and energy in these collaborations. But the hard truth is, all of this might not be enough. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish what’s true (and not true) online. Business models for journalism continue to change drastically. The rapid evolution of technology is challenging all institutions, including the news industry, to keep pace.

It added: “The commitments we’re making through the Google News Initiative demonstrate that news and quality journalism is a top priority for Google. We know that success can only be achieved by working together, and we look forward to collaborating with the news industry to build a stronger future for journalism.”

Google logo. Image: testing/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects