According to a key official at Google's Jigsaw unit, the company is starting a new anti-misinformation initiative in India targeted at eliminating inaccurate information that has been blamed for instigating violence. The programme will make use of "prebunking" films, which will be distributed on the company's YouTube platform and other social media sites to dispute erroneous claims before they become prevalent.
Google's efforts to fight misinformation contrast with those of competitor Twitter, which is shrinking its trust and safety teams despite new owner Elon Musk's assurance that the platform would not become a "free-for-all hellscape." In the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Google recently ran an experiment in Europe in which it attempted to rebut anti-refugee sentiments online.
The experiment in India will be larger in scale since it will deal with numerous local languages — Bengali, Hindi, and Marathi — will cover various sections of a country with a population of over a billion people.
“This provided a chance to explore prebunking in a non-western, global south market," noted Beth Goldman, Jigsaw's head of research and development.
Misinformation travels quickly in India, as it does in other nations, mostly through social media, causing political and religious conflicts. Officials in India have urged digital giants like Google, Meta, and Twitter to take better measures to combat the dissemination of false news.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has utilised "extraordinary powers" on many occasions to remove YouTube channels, as well as some Twitter and Facebook profiles, that are falsely spreading negative news. Inflammatory texts have also been propagated through Meta's messaging programme Whatsapp, which has over 200 million Indian users. After bogus allegations about child abductors led to mass beatings of more than a dozen people, some of whom died, the business limited the number of times a post could be sent in 2018.
Jigsaw has created five movies in three languages in conjunction with the Alfred Landecker Foundation, a pro-democracy group based in Germany, the charitable investment business Omidya Network India, and a number of smaller regional partners. Following the viewing of the films, viewers will be invited to complete a brief multiple-choice questionnaire designed to assess what they have learnt about disinformation. According to the company's latest research on the issue, viewers who saw such films were 5% more likely to spot falsehoods.
Goldman went on to say that the Indian effort will concentrate on topics that are essential to the country.
"By alerting people and preparing them to recognise and reject misleading arguments, they build resistance against future manipulation."
The results are scheduled to be published in the summer of 2023.
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