Will Google stop faking it?
Google is rolling out its Google News Initiative to support the very journalism it has helped undermine. The digital behemoth is calling this a ‘major milestone in Google’s 15-year commitment to the news industry’ though there’s little mention its old mantra of ‘content wants to be free’ that did so much to undermine legitimate news services.
The Google News Initiative is ostensibly about helping build a ‘stronger future for news’, though clearly it has more to do with fending off growing criticism of Google’s role in promoting fake news. The company says the programme will deepen its commitment to a news industry facing dramatic shifts in how journalism is created, consumed, and paid for, and it focuses on three objectives:
•Elevating and strengthening quality journalism
•Evolving business models to drive sustainable growth
•Empowering news organisations through technological innovation
OK, first a bit of mea culpa. “Bad actors often target breaking news on Google platforms, increasing the likelihood that people are exposed to inaccurate content,” Google says.
In terms of tackling the fake news problem, Google says it has already launched the Disinfo Lab to combat mis- and disinformation during elections and ‘breaking news moments’. It’s also teaming up with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, and the Local Media Association to launch MediaWise, a project designed to ‘improve digital information literacy for young consumers’.
“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,” says Google.
The company says it is committing $300m to the Google News Initiative.
That’s not a lot of cash when you consider how effective Russian disinformation campaigns have been in spite of what is largely considered mediocre tradecraft – it’s not that the perpetrators are that strong, it’s that the defence offered by the likes of Google and Facebook has been so weak.
Things will get worse before they have time to get better. That’s because we can expect the next generation of fake news activists to increasingly deploy artificial intelligence-based tools, according to the #Digitaldeceit report from New America’s Public Interest Technology and Harvard Kennedy School.
And as the world’s leading online platforms boast cutting-edge technology to help advertisers reach and influence audiences, that means the economic incentives of the platforms and the political objectives of disinformation operators are nicely aligned, warn the authors of the report.