EU fund to fight fake news receives first investment, namely 25 million euros from Google, amid ongoing scrutiny of tech giant efforts
Google continues its efforts to fight misinformation and support fact checking with a donation to a European fund.
The search engine giant contributed 25 million euros (£21m or $29m) to the European Media and Information Fund, which was recently set up to provide grants to researchers, fact-checkers, not-for-profits and other organisations working on disinformation research and strengthening media literacy and fact-checking.
Google’s move comes as tech firms such as Google and others face increasing regulatory pressure over their efforts against fake news and misinformation. Indeed, last week Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg appeared virtually before the US Congress for the fourth time this year to face questioning over reforms to Section 230 protections.
Google’s contribution to the European fund was revealed in a blog post by Matt Brittin, head of Google’s EMEA Business & Operations.
“While navigating the uncertainty and challenges of the last year, it has proven more important than ever for people to access accurate information, and sort facts from fiction,” wrote Brittin. “That’s why Google is contributing €25 million to help launch the European Media and Information Fund to strengthen media literacy skills, fight misinformation and support fact checking.”
The European Media and Information Fund was launched last week by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute. It has a duration of five years.
Google’s Brittin pointed out that the fund is designed to help adults and young people strengthen their media literacy skills; support and scale the critical work of fact-checkers; and strengthen the expertise, research and resources to help fight misinformation.
“As the first to contribute to the European Media and Information Fund, we welcome and encourage other organisations to follow our lead and support this important work,” wrote Brittin. “It is clear there is an unmet demand for funding and research, with fewer than one in 10 Europeans having participated in any form of online media literacy training, according to a recent report.”
He noted that in the coming weeks, the Fund will open for proposals from academics, nonprofits and publishers based in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Independent committees made up of industry experts will select the winning ideas and Google won’t be involved in any decision making related to the Fund.
Last September the European Commission had urged online platforms and the advertising sector to do more to tackle the scourge of fake news.
That came after the Commission in October 2019 had said tech giants needed to do more to tackle fake news, after they had submitted self-assessment reports.
Those self-assessments were part of the agreement that tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, had committed to when they signed the EU Code of Practice against disinformation in October 2018.
All of these firms were asked to report monthly on their actions.
In February 2019 the Commission was forced to rebuke Facebook, Google and Twitter over their efforts to crack down on fake news.