Google commits $3 million to fight COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

The Google News Initiative funding aims to support people targeted by falsehoods.

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Vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are placed next to a loaded syringe at the Throop Civic Center in Throop, Pa. during a clinic on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. The Lackawanna County Medical Society had about 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine on hand to administer to those in the Phase 1A group of Pennsylvania's vaccine rollout plan, which is limited to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. (Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP)
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In its latest effort to promote verified, true information, Google is supporting attempts to fight falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines. Its Google News Initiative will provide up to $3 million in grants to journalists and fact-checkers who are tackling false information about the vaccine. 

The goal of the open fund is to "reach audiences that are typically underserved or targeted by misinformation," Alexios Mantzarlis, news and information credibility lead at Google News Lab, wrote in a blog post. News organizations with a "proven track record" in debunking falsehoods and fact-checking are eligible for the grants, as are partners of such groups. 

Google will provide up to $1 million in funding per project and cover up to 80 percent of the total costs. A jury of 12 Google employees will review applications and select the recipients.

While $3 million won't be nearly enough to completely stamp out virulent misinformation about the vaccine, it'll surely help, especially if fact-checkers can use the funds to proactively reach people who have no idea that the falsehoods they encounter are incorrect. As Mantzarlis points out, research has suggested that "audiences coming across misinformation and those seeking fact checks don’t necessarily overlap."

The company announced the Google News Initiative back in 2018 and, at the time, it pledged $300 million to combat fake news and support journalism projects. Last April, Google said it would provide up to $6.5 million to fight coronavirus misinformation.

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