Google’s Jigsaw subsidiary is launching a new anti-misinformation project in India aimed at curbing misleading information that has been blamed for inciting violence, a top executive said.
The initiative will use “prebanking” videos — videos designed to counter false claims before they are broadcast on the company’s YouTube platform and other social media sites.
Google’s efforts to challenge the spread of misinformation stand in stark contrast to rival Twitter, which has been trimming its trust and security teams despite new owner Elon Musk saying it will not become a “free-for-all hellscape”.
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 scope of the experiment in India will be large as it will deal with multiple local languages – Bengali, Hindi and Marathi – and cover different sections of the country with a population of over a billion people.
“This presented an opportunity to research prebanking in a non-Western, Global South market,” said Beth Goldman, Jigsaw’s head of research and development.
As in other countries, misinformation spread rapidly across India, mostly through social media, creating political and religious tensions.
Indian government officials have called on tech companies like Google, Meta and Twitter to take strong action against the spread of fake news.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has repeatedly called for “extraordinary powers” to block YouTube channels, and some Twitter and Facebook accounts allegedly used to spread harmful misinformation.
Inflammatory messages have also spread through Meta’s messaging service WhatsApp, which has over 200 million users in India. In 2018, the company curtailed the number of people forwarding a message after false claims about child abductors led to a mass lynching of more than a dozen people, some of whom died.
Working in collaboration with the Alfred Landecker Foundation, a pro-democracy organization based in Germany, philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network India, and several smaller regional partners, Jigsaw produced five videos in three different languages.
After watching the video, viewers will be asked to fill out a short multiple-choice questionnaire designed to find out what they’ve learned about misinformation. The company’s recent research on the subject suggested that viewers were 5% more likely to identify misinformation after watching such videos.
Goldman said the Indian initiative will focus on issues that are resonating in the country.
“By predisposing individuals and equipping them to detect and refute fallacious arguments, they acquire the resilience to be misled in the future.”
The results are expected to be published in the summer of 2023.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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