Google spending $6.5 million on efforts devoted to combating coronavirus misinformation

Google announced Thursday the company will spend $6.5 million on various efforts aimed at combating online misinformation involving the deadly ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Alexios Mantzarlis, the head of news and information credibility for Google’s News Lab, said the amount will be paid to fact-checkers and nonprofit organizations as part of a broader effort by the tech titan to help people around the globe access and understand information about the outbreak.

“Health authorities have warned that an overabundance of information can make it harder for people to obtain reliable guidance about the coronavirus pandemic,” he wrote in a blog post. “Helping the world make sense of this information requires a broad response, involving scientists, journalists, public figures, technology platforms and many others.”

Indeed, projects Google intends to support with the funding range from a fact-checking partnership between PolitiFact and Kaiser Health News, to the creation of a database for reporters being built by a journalism technology nonprofit and public health experts, in addition to other efforts, Mr. Mantzarlis wrote.

Google will also fund journalism fellowships at Stanford University and support an effort to train 1,000 journalists in India and Nigeria to spot misinformation, among other projects, Mr. Mantzarlis wrote.

The World Health Organization noted February report that an “over abundance of information — some accurate and some not” was making it difficult for people to find out reliable and trustworthy details about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

More recently, a top U.S. State Department official said last month that foreign governments were responsible for some of the bogus coronavirus information appearing online.

“During the crisis, we’ve seen Russian, Chinese and Iranian state disinformation and propaganda ecosystems all converge around some disinformation themes intended to promote their own agendas,” said Lea Gabrielle, special envoy and coordinator for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.

More than a million people around the world have contracted COVID-19 since it was discovered in late December, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University. More than 200,000 have recovered and over 50,000 have died, according to the data.

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