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Google ups efforts to check misinformation ahead of Lok Sabha elections

Neha Alawadhi/New Delhi 15 Mar 19 | 12:30 PM

Not just Facebook and Twitter, Google is also making an effort to ensure the authenticity of information on its advertisements and video platform as India heads towards General Elections in less than a month.

On Thursday, the company said it is ensuring authoritative news content gets better play on YouTube, where videos have seen growth in watch time triple for content from authoritative sources in the last two years, said Tim Katz, the video platform’s director of news partnerships.

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YouTube, which is owned by Google, is ensuring there is news from credible sources that is put on the platform, with enough context. 

With elections less than a month away, the Indian government has been trying to address the issue of misinformation and fake news spreading through social media and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. Recently, the Parliamentary Committee on information technology met with senior executives of Facebook and Twitter and the Election Commission has also said social media platforms have committed to help check the spread of fake news in the run up to elections. 

The video platform has introduced fact checks to its panels in India, just below the search results, which relies on and "open ecosystem of publishers and fact checking experts".It is currently available in Engligh and will shortly be available in Hindi. 

The "Top News" and "Breaking News" sections on YouTube highlight videos from credible news sources in search results and during major news events globally. 

Google has partnered with an open source community schema.org, which provides news organisations with a tool called ClaimReview markup that helps put "markers" on fact-checked news reports.  Google's systems then decide whether the content would be useful to users and should show in search results, based on relevancy and several other factors.

"A publisher writes a fact-checking story on their own website, then they take this tool... (which is) like a developer tool, and can put annotations on to their article. Its like metadata for their articles. And this allows third parties like Google to scan that metadata and understand when was this written, what was the topic, how did they research it, how were they able to verify the veracity of their claim," said Katz. 

He added that YouTube was working towards the future of online video by working with news organisations and developing product features for news on its platform.

As a part of a broader $300 million investment by its Google News Initiative, Google committed $25 million to support a working group that works with its YouTube team to help improve the news experience on YouTube, and also provide innovation funding for grants to news organizations globally to build stronger video capabilities and experiment with new video formats.

In December, YouTube said 10 of the 87 news projects from 23 countries around the world came from India.

Google is also going to launch its political ad transparency report before Indian elections, scheduled to begin on April 11.

The search giant said it took down 2.3 billion advertisements that violated its advertising policies globally. In its "Bad Ads Report" 2018, the search giant said it introduced 31 new advertiser policies last year to address abuse in areas such as third-party technology support, ticket resellers, cryptocurrency, as well as local services such as garage door repairmen, bail bonds and rehab facilities.

Using machine learning, Google also identified and terminated almost one million bad advertiser accounts. This led to nearly 7,34,000 publishers and app developers getting terminated from the Google ad network, and removal of ads completely from nearly 1.5 million apps. The company also took ads off of nearly 28 million pages that violated the publisher policies.

The company had launched a new policy for election ads in the US ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, which led to nearly 1,43,000 election ads in the US getting verified and listed in the US version of the political ads transparency report.

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