Google invests $6.5 million to fight coronavirus-related misinformation

Igor Bonifacic
Contributing Writer
400tmax via Getty Images

When it comes to a potentially deadly respiratory disease like COVID-19, accurate and reliable information can be the difference between life and death. To that end, Google says it will provide $6.5 million in funding to organizations combating misinformation around the globe, with "an immediate focus on coronavirus." The initiative will see the company approach the problem from several different angles, working with a broad slate of non-profits.

As one example, the company's Google News Initiative will increase its support for First Draft. The organization has helped journalists cover the pandemic by providing an online coronavirus resource hub, as well as training and crisis simulations. Part of the new funding will also go to fact-checking non-profits like Full Fact and Maldita.es. According to Google, those organizations will focus their efforts on European countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, where there have been some of the highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases. They'll "amplify experts, share trends and reduce the spread of harmful false information," the company says.

Elsewhere, Google will work with Meedan, a journalism non-profit, and public health experts to develop a database to aid reporters. Notably, the company is also experimenting with how to best feature a dedicated fact check page in the COVID-19 section of Google News.

Besides Google, governments are also working to address the issue. In March, the UK government said it would provide £500,000 (approximately $623,000) to fight coronavirus-related misinformation, with some of that funding going to social media influencers. In both cases, the funding is unlikely to address the problem completely, but it could save lives.

We've also seen companies like Samsung and Sony announce efforts to help during the pandemic. Sony, for example, established a $100 million fund, with the money earmarked toward helping front-line medical staff, students learning from home and creatives hard hit by the virus.