Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Protecting the integrity of elections

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Up to 400 million citizens will vote in this year’s European Parliamentary Elections. At a time when access to quality information is key, Google and YouTube — together with partners the European University Institute and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, with whom we are proud to champion the European Media and Information Fund — are convening experts across government, academia, civil society, and industry at our elections-focused Fighting Misinformation Online summit today in Brussels. Our goal is to continue working together on key topics including media literacy, civic engagement, and mis- and disinformation in the context of artificial intelligence (AI).

Earlier this year, we shared how we’re supporting the elections for European Parliament by surfacing high-quality information to voters, safeguarding our platforms and equipping campaigns with the best-in-class security tools and training — with an increased focus on leveraging AI to fight abuse at scale. Today, we’re sharing an update on how we’re working with the wider ecosystem to combat mis- and disinformation and support media literacy, and providing access to insights on relevant Search trends.

Countering mis- and disinformation: from debunking to prebunking

Fact checkers play an important role in the wider efforts to debunk misinformation and support quality information. Today, we’re excited to announce a €1.5 million contribution to the European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN), a newly created association representing European fact checking organizations, to launch Elections24Check. Elections24Check represents a coalition of 40+ news and fact checking organizations, with coverage across Europe, working together to fact check the European Parliamentary Elections. To support cross-border collaboration, Elections24Check will create a comprehensive database of election related disinformation, claims and narratives — the first open database of its kind which will support research and fact checking around the world.

“Elections24Check will offer an early detection system of online misinformation for the entire continent,” says Carlos Hernández-Echevarría, Chair of the EFCSN Governance Body. “Participating fact-checking organisations not only cover almost the entire EU but also the wider community of neighbouring European countries. This is important because misinformation travels widely across borders especially around the upcoming elections.”

The coalition members will have access to new beta features in Fact Check Explorer which allow organizations to search fact checks by image in addition to text — increasingly important with the creation of more imagery made with generative AI. We’re also providing training on how to see the context and timeline of an image to understand when it was first indexed by Google and how it has been used since, which helps trace the provenance and history of an image across the web.

Another valuable technique is prebunking, which teaches audiences how to spot common manipulation techniques, so they can better recognize mis- and disinformation online. We recently announced a prebunking campaign ahead of the European Parliamentary Elections to bolster media literacy. The campaign, which kicks off this spring, will focus on techniques used to advance disinformation including decontextualization, scapegoating and discrediting through short video ads on social in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Poland. The videos will also be translated and available in all EU languages along with Arabic, Russian and Turkish.

New journalist resources to raise awareness of disinformation

In the run up to the European elections in June, AFP will provide resources for journalists to raise awareness of disinformation and actions to tackle it. The global news agency will publish a series of short videos on their award-winning YouTube playlist “AFP Fact Check: How to verify information online” in at least eight European languages and a three-part online course in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese on tackling disinformation during elections. AFP’s scaled training curriculum, courses and videos are proudly supported by the Google News Initiative.

Partnering to empower young voters

With the voting age lowered to 16+ in some European countries, more young people can participate in the democratic process. To support them, Google.org is awarding a $1 million grant to ThinkYoung, a Belgian think tank. The grant will fund youth-led hackathons across Europe, empowering young voters to combat disinformation and develop solutions with a focus on underserved communities. This initiative builds on Google.org’s long standing commitment to youth media literacy and online safety, having supported 60+ organizations in this space since 2018.

Providing topical insights on Search trends

To help give insight into the issues and topics voters want to learn more about, we’re launching a Google Trends Elections Hub for the European Parliamentary Elections, with EU-wide Search Trends as well as country-level data for Germany, France, Poland and Spain. The hub features real-time charts that provide an overview of how Search interest in the parties, candidates and political topics are evolving, based on Google Trends data.

We are also launching a Google Trends Elections Newsletter in the coming weeks, featuring EU-wide analysis of Search Trends on parties, candidates, and political topics. The newsletter aims to provide in-depth analysis and insights into key countries, based on searches ahead of the election. Each edition of the newsletter will include analysis of major geographic trends, comparisons between current and previous election cycles and highlight the top searched election and voting questions as the election approaches. Interested individuals can sign up for the newsletter on the Trends hub.

In this election year — and beyond — we remain committed to reducing the threat of misinformation and to promoting trustworthy information, and look forward to collaborating with government, industry and civil society to advance this goal.



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