Remember how five years ago we were all like “Man, tech companies should really do something about misinformation,” and tech companies were like “Nahhhh, what’s the worst that could happen?” Well, the worst has happened and now Google is contributing more than $29 million to an organization intended to combat misinformation online.
According to ABC News, Matt Brittin, the president of Google in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, announced in a company blog post on Wednesday that the contribution will come from the company’s newly established European Media and Information fund that is intended to fund projects combating misinformation. The initial round of funding will go to the European University Institute, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European Digital Media Observatory. Some of the money will also go toward programs meant to strengthen media literacy and develop new ways to combat misinformation.
“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,” Brittin wrote. He added that in the coming weeks, the fund will begin taking grant proposals “from academics, nonprofits and publishers.”
While this is all well and good, it feels like too little, too late. Globally, we’ve seen misinformation be used to spread easily debunked conspiracy theories, contribute to growing threat of far-right extremism, and even managed to get this fucking guy elected as president.
Let’s be clear: This is the furthest thing from being proactive.
In fact, it’s not lost on me that this fund was announced after congressional lawmakers gave Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, along with other tech CEOs, a legislative RKO in a hearing last week. They’re feeling the pressure, and I think it’s safe to assume that this effort is really just meant to stave off any potential regulation.
Brittin ended his post encouraging other companies and organizations to contribute to the fund.
“As the first to contribute to the European Media and Information Fund, we welcome and encourage other organizations to follow our lead and support this important work,” he wrote.