Google Dons a Super Hero Costume

December 9, 2022

Though one new social-media proprietor is actively dismantling mechanisms to fight disinformation, most online platforms still at least make a show of doing battle against it. For example, Mashable reports, “Google and YouTube Are Investing to Fight Misinformation.” This particular effort might actually help matters since, instead of (re)devising some in-house process, the company is directly funding third-party fact checkers. Reporter Meera Navlakha tells us Google is:

“… announcing a $13.2 million grant to the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), a part of nonprofit media institute Poynter. The grant will fund the formation of the Global Fact Check Fund, to support a network of 135 fact-checking organizations, operating from 65 countries in over 80 languages. The money will go towards scaling existing operations and launch new initiatives to elevate information and reduce misinformation. The fund will open in 2023. This is Google and YouTube’s single largest grant toward fact-checking to date.”

That’s great! Independent fact checking organizations need all the funding they can get. Naturally, Google must position this grant as evidence it cares about its users. The post quotes:

“‘Google and YouTube remain dedicated to keep doing our part to help you find what you’re looking for and give you the context you need to make informed decisions about what you see online,’ reads the company statement.”

Dedicated is a strong word. Yes, the company has made some fact-checking efforts in Google News and on YouTube. But what about tools that would more directly let one decide what content is served up? The YouTube “dislike” feature is but an illusion. A way to specify ‘do not show this video to me again’ would be nice. But that would give users too much control. The advertisers, after all, are the real customers. And as long as misinformation successfully puts ads in front of eyeballs, there will only be so much done to fight it.

Cynthia Murrell, December 9, 2022

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