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Google takes on fake news with $300 million News Initiative

The program is designed to improve the quality of journalism and the business models of publishers at a time when most are struggling.

Google is extending an olive branch to the media world.

The internet search giant on Tuesday unveiled the Google News Initiative, a worldwide effort in which Google will partner with news publications to help highlight the most accurate information possible, especially during breaking-news situations. Google also expressed its commitment to helping publishers generate a sustainable source of revenue. 

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Google is committing $300 million dollars over the next three years to meet its goals, Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler said in a blog post.

The program comes as the news business and Google head in different directions from a business perspective. Google parent Alphabet continues to post monster profit and revenue thanks to its ad business, while news organizations have struggled under intense competition and the difficult transition to a digital-first world. The pressures are such that media magnate and News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch had called for the likes of Google and Facebook to subsidize publishers for the news content that appears on their sites.  

At the same time, Google, alongside Facebook and Twitter, faces increasing scrutiny over the kinds of stories it highlights in searches, particularly during crises. For instance, a hoax found on a thread from image-messaging board site 4chan, naming the wrong person in the Las Vegas shooting in October, hit the first page of its search results. Likewise, a video espousing a conspiracy theory about one of the survivors of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the top trending item on Google's YouTube. 

"We need to do more," Schindler said. "The GNI signifies a major milestone in Google's 15-year commitment to the news industry, and will bring together everything we do in collaboration with the industry — across products, partnerships, and programs — to help build a stronger future for news."

To fight fake news, Google is launching the Disinfo Lab with First Draft to fight misinformation during elections and when other news is breaking. The company meanwhile is teaming up with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University and the Local Media Association to launch MediaWise, which is designed to improve digital literacy for the young. 

In addition, Google announced Subscribe with Google, a tool that streamlines the sign-up and subscription process for premium news sources. Launch partners include The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Telegraph and the Financial Times.

Schindler also talked up News Consumer Insights, a dashboard running off Google Analytics that's designed to help news organizations better target readers for subscriptions.

Google vowed, too, to work with news organizations to enhance their storytelling capabilities with different experiences, citing work with the South China Morning Post on the use of Google Earth Studio to create a virtual reality experience. 

The company also launched Outline, a tool that lets journalists set up a secure virtual private network (VPN) connection to the internet. 

The story originally published on March 20 at 8:49 a.m. PT.
Update at 9:27 a.m. PT: Added background information. 

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