An Open Fund for Projects Debunking Vaccine Misinformation

FILE - This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. Coronaviruses, including the newest one, are named for the spikes that cover their outer surface like a crown, or corona in Latin. Using those club-shaped spikes, the virus latches on to the outer wall of a human cell, invades it and replicates, creating viruses to hijack more cells. (NIAID/NIH via AP)

The uncertainty and developing nature of the coronavirus pandemic continues to generate related misinformation. Fact-checkers have been hard at work debunking falsehoods online, with nearly 10,000 fact checks about the pandemic currently showing up across our products.

The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is exacerbating a perennial problem of misinformation about immunization. To support additional debunking efforts, the Google News Initiative is launching a COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund worth up to $3 million.

While the COVID-19 infodemic has been global in nature, misinformation has also been weaponized to target specific populations. Some of the available research also suggests that the audiences coming across misinformation and those seeking fact checks don’t necessarily overlap.

For this reason, the Open Fund is welcoming applications from projects that aim to broaden the audience of fact checks, particularly with those who may be disproportionately affected by misinformation in mind.

The fund is global and open to news organizations of every size which have a proven track record in fact-checking and debunking activities or partner with an organization with such recognition.

We will prioritize collaborative projects with an interdisciplinary team and clear ways to measure success. 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.

A global team of Googlers will review applications. The jury that will choose grantees is composed by the following:

Theresa Amobi, Senior Lecturer, University of Lagos

Ludovic Blecher, Head of Innovation, Google News Initiative

Renee DiResta, Technical Research Manager, Stanford Internet Observer

Susannah Eliott, CEO, Australian Science Media Centre

Gagandeep Kang, Head of the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory, Christian Medical College

Alexios Mantzarlis, News and Information Credibility Lead, Google

Syed Nazakat, Founder & CEO, Data Leads

Ifeoma Ozoma, Founder and Principal, Earthseed

Baybars Örsek, Director, International Fact-Checking Network

Andy Pattison, manager of digital solutions, World Health Organization

Angela Pimenta, Director of Operations, Projor

Amy Pisani, Executive Director, Vaccinate Your Family

Yamil Velez, Associate Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Brian Yau, Promotion & Engagement Lead, Vaccine Safety Net at WHO

The Open Fund builds on support the GNI has provided to news efforts fighting pandemic misinformation in April and December of last year. We expect that selected projects will benefit from research the GNI is supporting into the formats, headlines and sources that are most effective in correcting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

Finally, Google Search is featuring information panels on authorized vaccines and we continue to surface fact checks across Google by using ClaimReview. We expanded the features in which users come across fact checks in 2020—in the COVID-19 Google News topic in the U.S., on GoogleNews on mobile in Brazil and in Google Images globally.

Please visit the Open Fund’s website to read more about eligibility criteria and find out how to apply.

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