News & Analysis

Fake News Growing in India: Google

Google, which has been under the scanner for monopolistic business activity, now says that India is witnessing a surfeit of fake news

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For readers, who may not be aware of its existence, April 2 has been designated International Fact-Checking Day.  And, of all the big tech companies in the field, Google has taken upon itself the mission of leading the fight against misinformation in India through the use of its products, programs and partnerships. 

In a blog post, the search giant, which has been facing some antitrust flak and even forked out fines for using Android ecosystem to monopolize its App market, says it was a great responsibility to its users who trust Google to deliver helpful information without prejudice. Of course, one could argue that Google’s algorithms usually give you more of what you search for. 

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. And when it comes to the internet, we know there’s all kinds of information, and not all of it is reliable or trustworthy. At Google, we feel a great responsibility to our users who place their trust in us to deliver trustworthy, helpful information for their various needs. The scourge of online misinformation runs counter to that mission,” says the blog post

Here’s what Google has done for fact checks

In fact, Google says that misinformation trends are on the increase in India and were at an all-time high in 2023. Towards this end, the company says it has launched an “About This Result” feature that would allow users to evaluate the information and understand its source. What’s more, the feature is already available in nine Indian languages, including the four southern languages, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati and Punjabi. 

And how does this work? A user seeking information in any of these languages just needs to hit the three dots next to the results on the Google Search Results Page. The box that opens up would give additional information about the result, based on how Google has determined that the answer is closest to what the user is looking for. 

Users would also be able to gather additional context that could support better informed decision-making about the websites that proffer the results on Google Search. It would also tell the user more about what they are likely to get and how it could be useful. Google says this would help a user figure out misinformation. 

Contextuality is the key for search and YouTube

Google said it was also making it a priority on how to gather information from authoritative sources across both search and YouTube. In the latter, the Top News section would showcase results from authoritative voices including news sources. However, this works only when one is searching for news or current affairs topics. 

In case of major events of the day, the Breaking News box would appear directly on the homepage while YouTube would provide a range of information panels and some events and topics that could have health data and search results that provide more context around what one is searching on. 

The Alphabet-owned company also said it would support the collaborative media literacy network FactShala that has more than 250 journalists and exports running workshops in more than 15 Indian languages. Google said it would be partnering with these experts to develop training modules that can easily spot disinformation.

The company also said it would be dedicating resources to support quality journalism through its Google News initiative that includes promoting quality reporting. It claimed that since 2016, they had trained more than 60,000 journalists and media students on the skills required to debunk digital misinformation in India.  

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