Google Commits $300 Million to Fight Fake News, Aid News Organizations

A major focus of Google News Initiative will be to help publishers sustain and grow their businesses in the highly-competitive internet advertising environment.

Google News Initiative Funding

Google will spend $300 million over the next three years on various initiatives to help news organizations sustain business growth and drive quality journalism. 

Under a new Google News Initiative (GNI) announced March 20, the company will also work on empowering news organizations through technological innovation such as machine learning and natural language processing tools. 

Philipp Schindler Google's chief business officer described GNI as deepening Google's commitment to helping the news industry cope with challenges to their business models from digital transformation. 

While the demand for quality journalism remains high, the manner in which journalism is created, consumed and paid for have changed dramatically with the industry-wide transition to digital, he wrote in the blog announcing the initiative. 

"Business models for journalism continue to change drastically," he said. "The rapid evolution of technology is challenging all institutions, including the news industry—to keep pace." 

Even the most respected news organizations in the U.S. including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post as well as major network television news groups have struggled to make profits in the Internet era, which gave rise to enormous competition for advertising revenue. 

One major focus for GNI will be on combating the spread of online misinformation especially during breaking news situations. On the technology front, Google is working on tools that will be capable of better separating content from authoritative sources with that from purveyors of misinformation and inaccurate content. The company is taking a similar approach to content on YouTube and has begun to highlight content from verified sources in a separate 'Top News' shelf. 

In addition, Google will work directly with newsrooms to identify and combat misinformation, Schindler said. The company has launched a new Disinfo Lab that will work with Harvard University's First Draft project to combat fake and inaccurate news during elections and major news events.  

Google is also partnering with Stanford University, the Poynter Institute and the Local Media Association in a campaign dubbed MediaWise to improve digital information literacy among youth. 

Google, Facebook and Twitter have come under considerable scrutiny in recent months for allowing their platforms to be used to spread false news stories and political propaganda during the 2016 general elections. Many believe such stories played a significant role in influencing the outcome of the elections. 

As part of its effort to help news organizations sustain and grow their businesses Google has launched a new Subscribe with Google service that makes it much simpler for users to subscribe to digital news content of their choice.  

With it, consumers will be able to use the information in their Google accounts—including credit and debit card data—to subscribe to and pay for publications with a single click. The publisher's products will then be accessible via the publisher's site, mobile app and even Google Search. 

Google is also testing a prototype of a 'Propensity to Subscribe' technology that will let publishers identify and target potential subscribers better. 

As part of the GNI initiative, Google is working on tools that can help improve newsroom efficiency and enable richer storytelling experiences, Schindler said. As one example he pointed to how Hearst Newspapers is currently using a Google natural language processing API to sort, label and categorize some 3,000 articles daily. 

Another example is a new open-source virtual private network called Outline developed by Jigsaw as part of Google parent Alphabet's technology incubator. Outline will give journalists a more secure way to access Internet content by making it easier for them to set up their own VPN. 

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.