Google details plan to fight fake news, from search to YouTube

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Google will also help drive online subscriptions for publishers.
Google will also help drive online subscriptions for publishers. Credit: Istock

Google says it is fighting fake news from its search results to YouTube with new programs that will focus on credible media sources and vetting breaking news.

On Tuesday, the search giant announced initiatives including installing a "top news" section on YouTube for only "verified" media. Google made the announcement at an event with The Washington Post and The Financial Times in New York.

"Bad actors often target breaking news on Google platforms, increasing the likelihood that people are exposed to inaccurate content," Google said in a blog post Tuesday attributed to Philipp Schindler, Google's chief business officer. "So we've trained our systems to recognize these events and adjust our signals toward more authoritative content. There are comparable challenges on YouTube, and we're taking a similar approach, highlighting relevant content from verified news sources in a 'Top News' shelf."

Google was one of the major internet companies caught flat-footed during the 2016 election, exposing how platforms can be used as conduits for spreading false information and conspiracies. Often low-quality websites would rank highly in Google News despite spreading false news stories, and YouTube channels that promote conspiracies often dominate during events like the Las Vegas shooting last year.

Facebook and Twitter have also struggled to stem the flood of disinformation and keep malicious actors from gaming their systems. Facebook has been working with media companies to define best practices on the social network and raise the profile of credible sources. Facebook also is working on a news section in its Watch video section that would give a platform to only established sources.

As for Google, it says it is creating what it calls a Disinfo Lab with the help of a group called First Draft, with the goal of fighting fake news during major events like elections and other breaking stories. Google is also working with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University and the Local Media Association to create an organization that teaches media literacy to children.

And Google announced a plan to help news outlets like The Washington Post drive more revenue from subscriptions.

"Consumers are willing to pay for digital news content, creating an opportunity to expand beyond ad revenue," Google said in its blog post.

The plan includes Subscribe With Google, a way to make it easier for people to pay publishers online that was announced last year and arrived Tuesday. It's also working on a "propensity to subscribe" signal in DoubleClick, Google's ad platform, to get publishers in front of readers most likely to subscribe to their content.

Through search and YouTube, Google says it drove 10 billion clicks a month to media sites last year, generating $12.6 billion for publishers.

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