Google announces initiatives to help curb misinformation, improve media literacy in Africa

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GOOGLE has announced additional initiatives through the Google News Initiative (GIS) to support African journalists and fact-checking organisations to advance media literacy in the continent.

This is coming amid growing concerns over widespread misinformation online.

A statement issued by the Head of Communications & Public Affairs, Google Africa, Dorothy Ooko, said that 72% of people surveyed in Kenya and Nigeria expressed concern about being exposed to false and misleading information.

READ: IFCN announces application for ENGAGE phase of the Google’s Global Fact Check Fund

“The interconnectedness of the spread of news and information today calls for each of us to play a role in advocating for media literacy.

“Our work at Google supports both journalists and fact-checking organisations who are doing the work to fight misinformation, and we help to create products and tools to help news consumers around the world better understand what they are seeing online,” part of the statement read.

The technology company said the new initiatives would help journalists and publishers to navigate the challenges and opportunities of what it called changing news habits.

It cited the “About this Result” as one of the product features in which it has invested in the fight against the spread of misinformation online.

About this Result is a feature in Search which provides critical context on a result before users visit the page.

The feature provides all information that can provide important context, including how widely a source is circulated, and whether another entity owns a company.

Google said it is working with media lab Fathm in the UK and publishers, including The Daily Maverick in South Africa, Premium Times in Nigeria, and The Standard Group in Kenya, to trial an entirely new way of delivering news to people across the continent.

This pilot of ‘direct publishing’ is believed to help innovative news outlets create interactive stories combining images, video and text- and publishing them directly to users within the Android Messages app.

The trial is said to use Android’s Rich Communication Service (RCS) to deliver news in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

The tech giant is also working with fact-checking organisations, including Africa Check, and Dubawa, among others to equip journalists across Africa with the digital skills to find, verify and tell news stories online.

“The trainers from this program will go on to support journalists working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola, providing guidance on fact-checking, verification tools and techniques.

“Dubawa will train 500 journalists in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and The Gambia with support from the GNI,” said Ooko.

Ooko further stated that Google would be supporting the ‘Africa Facts’ conference in November in Nairobi.

ALSO READ: Misinformation: Google to improve search snippets using machine learning software

She said, “we want to help connect ideas and expert practitioners, and further strengthen fact-checking across the continent.”

She added, “These new initiatives build on the media literacy training programme, WebRangers, that we facilitate with Media Monitoring Africa, focused on training teens in South Africa on how to identify and report misinformation.

“We believe the future of news across Africa is bright, and support for it is critical. We are eager to continue finding ways to connect people to relevant and quality news across the region.”

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