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Google vows to be at forefront in fighting disinformation

Jan 24. 2019
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GOOGLE HAS committed itself to being an able supporting tool for journalists in order to strengthen the quality of journalism and also to fight misinformation, especially during the upcoming election in Thailand, a senior executive said.

Google said it is combating misinformation alongside news organisations in Asia Pacific and around the world through Google News Initiatives. The challenge is how the platforms and newsrooms could together strengthen quality journalism and fight misinformation, said Saiyai Sakawee, communication manager of Google Thailand.

One part of this mission is the verified fact-checkers. Google is working to increase the number of verified fact-checkers throughout the ecosystem, Saiyai said, including for Thailand.

Saiyai said Google is addressing this challenge in three ways: first, it is building products to elevate quality journalism on its platforms; second, it is collaborating with newsrooms to ensure accurate information, and third, it backs research and builds programmes to improve digital literacy. 

She explained that Google, as a search engine, is not an oracle of absolute truth. Search results are ranked based on their authoritativeness and relevance. The Google search algorithm balance between relevance and authoritativeness varies, depending on the nature of the query.

“Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. We are training our systems to recognise and address crisis events,” said Saiyai.

She added that Google was working with the media industry to develop the parameters for quality journalism. For example, it provided the Digital News Innovation fund to The True Project to identify eight indicators of trust: best practices, author/reporter expertise, type of work, citations and references, methodology, locally sources, diverse voices and actionable feedback.

The Google News Initiative was launched two years ago with the aim of building a stronger future for journalism. It consisted of three parts: products that help news organisations and journalists succeed in web partnerships; partnerships with publishers to create joint solutions for business challenges; and programmes that help build the future of journalism. 

Under Google News Initiative, Google develops and supports programmes called Digital News Innovation Fund and Google News Lab, Saiyai said. 

The role of the Google News Lab, whose Asian centre is located in Singapore, is to work with journalists and entrepreneurs around the world, including Thailand, to drive innovation in the news industry. Its global team works with journalists worldwide.

It also provides an online trading centre to offer online training courses for journalists around the world. Currently, it is offering 55 lessons in 17 languages on the best practices for using Google’s tools and products. 

“The online courses are now available in Thai language. It is free of cost and facilitates journalists as they learn how to use and utilise Google’s tools and products in doing reporting and storytelling. There are many courses, for example, basic knowledge, publishing and monetisation, data journalism, fact-checking, and others. Some of the tools are: Election Databot, Google Search, Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google News, Google Maps, YouTube and Google Public Data Explorer,” said Saiyai.

She also mentioned tools journalists could use for election coverage. For example, Flourish, funded by Google News Lab, is free for newsrooms, allowing journalists and developers to upload and reuse data visualisations. She added that Google also offers In-person Training, which was done in Thailand once last year. It has trained 130,000 journalists across 65 countries, including Thailand, in person since 2015.

Moreover, YouTube’s Breaking News Context is also available in Thailand, which provides a context to help people make their own decisions.


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