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March 16, 2021, 10:41 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: blog.google  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   March 16, 2021

Google News Initiative has announced the 11 projects selected to receive a collective $3 million to fight Covid-19 vaccine misinformation. They include a hyperlocal digital news site distributing fact-checks to offline Mexicans using “perifoneo” loudspeakers, interactive radio dramas in Senegal and Nigeria, and a partnership with a trap music star in Uruguay.

Google announced the open fund in mid-January. Google’s news and information credibility lead, Alexios Mantzarlis, said they received more than 300 applications from 74 countries in the three-week application window.

The scope of the winning projects is pretty remarkable. The audiences targeted include a range from Catholics to Pekeño 77 fans, the elderly to 18- to 26-year-olds, people with disabilities in Spain to wet market workers in Indonesia.

Mantzarlis served as director for Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network and managing director of the Italian fact-checking organization Pagella Politica before arriving at Google. He says many of these projects mark the first time — as far as he or Google knows — that fact checking will be done in these formats.

“I had not seen interactive radio drama or partnering with a trap music performer as part of the fact checker arsenal,” Mantzarlis said. “I’m hoping that this tells us something about whether these formats work. Some may — some may not. We’re allowing for some extra experimentation that maybe, in your core funding, you might be a bit more reticent to do.”

“It’d be surprising if all 11 approaches were a runaway success,” Mantzarlis added.

The scale of some of the fact-checking projects is ambitious. One effort, proposed by Univision and Factcheck.org, aims to reach a majority of Hispanic households in the United States. In India, The Quint hopes to distribute fact-checks through a giant grassroots network to millions — even tens or hundreds of millions — of rural women.

Here’s the full list of funded projects:

Africa Check, in partnership with Theatre for a Change, will produce a series of interactive radio drama shows in Wolof in Senegal and Pidgin in Nigeria to present fact checks in a more participatory format.

Agência Lupa will provide Covid-19 vaccine fact checks to a network of community radios covering Brazilian “news deserts” and work with digital influencers to promote media literacy on the topic.

Aleteia, I.Media and Verificat.cat will work with a scientific committee and two research centers to source misinformation and create a database of related fact checks available in seven languages for Catholic media outlets around the world.

Chequeado will continue spearheading the collaborative project Latam Chequea that includes more than 20 fact-checking organizations across Latin America. It will aim to reach senior citizens, indigenous populations and 18-to-26-year-olds through dedicated formats.

The hyperlocal digital site Escenario Tlaxcala, assisted by local doctors, will produce fact-checking content and distribute it across the Mexican state in Nahuatl through various formats including the using “perifoneo” loudspeakers to reach offline audiences.

Katadata will provide a platform debunking Covid-19 vaccine misinformation and work with the Indonesia Traditional Wet Market Merchants Association (Asparindo) to disseminate this content to wet markets across the country.

In Uruguay, la diaria will publish fact checks and co-created content around Covid-19 misinformation, broadening its reach by partnering with trap music performer Pekeño 77 and screenwriter Pedro Saborido.

Servimedia and Maldita.es will join force to create fact-checking content relevant for Spaniards with disabilities, in formats that are accessible to them.

Stuff will work in partnership with Māori Television and the Pacific Media Network to fact-check misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine in New Zealand.

A broad collaborative project led by The Quint in India will seek to source hyper-local misinformation and distribute fact checks through a grassroots network of rural women.

Univision Noticias and FactCheck.org will work together to produce fact checks about Covid-19 immunization as short bilingual video explainers, with a plan to measure their impact systemically and reach a majority of U.S. Hispanic households.

Like The New York Times’ Daily Distortions blog and others tackling misinformation, FactCheck.org only wants to address false information once it’s reached a “tipping point” so they don’t unwittingly spread lies farther than they’re already traveling. The collaboration between Univision and Factcheck.org, the fact checkers hope, will test the ability to correct misperceptions via television.

In their application, each team submitted an impact assessment that laid out how they planned to track their process and measure their success fact-checking Covid-19 vaccine information. The two most popular choices were conducting “before and after” surveys in the targeted audience and A/B testing during the fact-checking project.

Mantzarlis said he’s pleased by the range of projects — most of which he says got the full funding they requested in their applications — as well as their geographic diversity.

“Global diversity was my primary concern throughout the review process,” he said. “We wanted strong representation from each global region, not 10 American projects and one from the rest of the world.”

You can read the full announcement on the Google News Initiative blog.

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