Google is launching a new project in India to combat misinformation, which has been blamed for inciting violence in the country, Reuters reported.
The new initiative will use “prebunking” videos, which are specifically designed to counter false claims before they become widespread. They will be circulated on the company’s YouTube platform and other social media sites.
Google’s efforts to challenge the spread of misinformation mark a contrast with the rival mega tech platform Twitter. Twitter is in the midst of slashing its trust and safety teams, despite new owner Elon Musk saying it will not become a “free-for-all hellscape”. It has raised general concerns that the company will become just that.
Like other countries, misinformation spreads rapidly across India, mostly through social media, creating political and religious tensions.
Indian government officials have called on tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, and Twitter to take stronger action against the spread of fake news.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has repeatedly invoked “extraordinary powers” to block YouTube channels, and some Twitter and Facebook accounts, allegedly used to spread harmful misinformation.
Google recently conducted an experiment in Europe where it sought to counter anti-refugee narratives online in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The experiment in India will be bigger in scope as it will deal with multiple local languages — Bengali, Hindi and Marathi — and cover diverse sections of a country populated by over a billion people.
It is being conducted by Google subsidiary company Jigsaw.
“This presented an opportunity to research prebunking in a non-western, global south market,” said Beth Goldman, Jigsaw’s head of research and development.
Working in collaboration with the Alfred Landecker Foundation, a pro-democracy organization based in Germany, the philanthropic investment firm Omidya Network India, and a number of smaller regional partners, Jigsaw has produced five videos in three different languages.
After watching the videos, viewers will be asked to fill in a short multiple-choice questionnaire, designed to gauge what they have learned about misinformation. The company’s recent research on the subject suggested viewers were 5 percent more likely to identify misinformation after watching such videos.