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Google announced on Jan. 12 that it will donate $3 million to journalists and fact-checkers to counter COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. 

The goal of the COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund is to serve and support audiences in areas that are underserved by fact-checking organizations. News organizations of any size with a history of debunking falsehoods are eligible for the grants, as well as other partners of these organizations.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is “exacerbating a perennial problem of misinformation about immunization.” Google’s new fund aims to support debunking efforts in addition to their previous work on COVID-19 misinformation.

Google was previously targeted for its role in spreading misinformation. This fund shows that the company is taking steps to address this problem.

Although $3 million will not be enough to address all of the COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on the internet, it will certainly help with contacting people who have no idea they encountered these falsehoods to begin with. “Misinformation has also been used to target specific populations,” wrote Alexis Mantzarlis, the News and Information Credibility Lead at Google News Lab. 

“Audiences coming across misinformation and those seeking fact checks don’t necessarily overlap.”

Google will provide up to $1 million per project and each application will be reviewed by a team of 14 jurors across academic, media, medical and non-profit sectors

According to the Jan. 12 announcement, projects with an interdisciplinary team that demonstrate “clear ways to measure success” and aim to reach groups “disproportionately affected by misinformation” will be prioritized. 

“Eligible applications might include a partnership between an established fact-checking project and a media outlet with deep roots in a specific community, or a collaborative platform for journalists and doctors to jointly source misinformation and publish fact checks.”

This Open Fund builds on from the work that Google News Initiative supported in the past. Organizations such as First Draft, PolitiFact, Comprova, Full Fact, Science Feedback and Data Leads received funds this spring. 

The Australian Science Media Centre and the technology non-profit Medan received $1 million in December to create a COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub, which will act as a “resource for journalists, providing around-the-clock access to scientific expertise and research updates.”

When Google News Initiative launched in 2018, the company pledged $300 million to stop the spread of fake news and support journalism projects. Last April, Google committed up to $6.5 million to combat coronavirus misinformation. 

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Written ByJasmine Perry

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