Fake news clampdown: Google gives €150,000 to fact-checking projects

Funding comes amid debate about role of the search engine in spreading bogus content some say influenced US election

Google has given €150,000 to three UK organisations working on fact-checking projects to help journalists and the public avoid falling for fake stories and bogus claims.

The funding announcement comes amid heated debate about the role of companies such as Facebook and Google in spreading fake stories that some claim influenced the results of the US election.

The money is part of a €24m (£20.5m) round of funding from Google’s digital news initiative, which backs innovative projects in news across Europe.

UK fact-checking charity Full Fact is being given €50,000 to work on an automated tool aimed primarily at journalists, called Factchecking Automation and Claim Tracking System (Facts).

Full Fact says the system will be “the first fully automated fact-checking tool” which will “recognise claims in political debates and online media and immediately alert journalists if they are inaccurate”.

Will Moy, Full Fact’s director, said growing unease around fake news was creating more interest in ways to verify information.

“We have been going six years,” he said. “It used to be the case that you had to explain why there was harm done by bad information. People now accept that bad information can be damaging.”

Another €50,000 is being given to a project called Factmata, developed at University College London and University of Sheffield.

In its pitch to Google, Factmata’s founder, Dhruv Ghulati, said it would use machine intelligence “to empower people to question the digital content they read on a daily basis, and not take anything for granted”.

He adds: “By putting advanced fact-checking tools in the hands of the people, we want to make fact checking fun, engaging, and empowering.”

Scottish investigative news site the Ferret is also getting a €50,000 grant, which will be used to develop a more traditional approach to fact checking to meet the “urgent need for a respected fact-checking organisation in Scotland in light of the many falsehoods and distortions prevalent in the run-up to the vote on Britain’s future in Europe”.

The chair of the Ferret, Rob Edwards, said: “This grant will help the Ferret bring its trademark independence and transparent analysis to the debate over Brexit and Scotland’s future place in the world.”

The digital news initiative grants are the second set of handouts from Google’s €150m fund. Another fact-checking project in Italy was also funded, receiving €47,000.

Though most of the debate around fake news has focused on the role of Facebook, Google has also been criticised. Following the US election, people searching for “final election results” were presented with a false story claiming Donald Trump received more votes than Hillary Clinton at the top of the news results.

Contributor

Jasper Jackson

The GuardianTramp

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