The project will involve ‘prebunking’ videos that have been posted on YouTube and other sister social media sites
The experiment will be conducted in Hindi, Marathi and Bengali and will cover diverse sections of the country
Google’s Jigsaw will produce five videos in the languages and will then seek viewer feedback on how effectively they identify fake news
Tech giant Google is launching a new experiment to curb misinformation in the country.
A senior executive told Reuters that the initiative will be undertaken by Google’s subsidiary, Jigsaw, and has been designed to prevent fake news. The project will involve ‘prebunking’ videos that have been posted on YouTube and other sister social media sites.
Prebunking involves flagging videos and specific disinformation much before their dissemination.
The report further added that the experiment will involve three vernacular languages, namely Hindi, Marathi and Bengali and will cover diverse sections of the country.
Describing the inner workings of the initiative, Jigsaw said that it will work in partnership with Germany-based Alfred Landecker Foundation, investment firm Omidyar Network India and other smaller regional partners to produce five videos in the specified three languages.
The viewers will then be asked to answer multiple-choice questions and will then be adjudged to understand what they learnt about misinformation. The project is largely expected to focus on issues that resonate in the country.
Jigsaw estimates the results to be published in summer 2023.
“By forewarning individuals and equipping them to spot and refute misleading arguments, they gain resilience to being misled in the future,” said Jigsaw’s head of research and development Beth Goldberg.
Interestingly, the company’s recent research on the matter revealed that viewers were 5% more likely to identify misinformation after watching such videos.
Bid To Placate Govt?
The new initiative comes at a time when the tech giant is under heavy fire from the centre over failure to crack down on fake news. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) even pulled up executives of social media giants – Facebook, Google and Twitter – for not proactively removing ‘fake news’ on their platforms.
The social media platforms have also been panned by rights groups for failing to act on fake news which, in many instances, have led to real-life deadly consequences, even deaths and riots.
The recent times have also seen the central government use discretionary powers to ban YouTube channels and Facebook accounts. In the last instance, the government blocked 45 videos from 10 YouTube channels citing their detrimental effects on the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
The ensuing crackdown has seen gag orders issued against more than 100 YouTube channels even as pressure mounts on social media giants to act.
Interestingly, before Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the microblogging platform had even dragged the union government to court over ‘innocuous block orders.’
On the other hand, Google looks to placate authorities as it continues to operate under heavy regulatory scrutiny in the country. Despite the red tape, Google may still look to keep its focus on India. With a growing population and increasing internet penetration, India continues to be a huge market for India.
It still remains to be seen whether this counter-misinformation project has any effect on the ground. While the initiative’s efficacy is still under question, it sure is a start to begin with.