Google and other tech giants face regulatory pressure in Europe over content hosted on their platforms
Google will contribute €25 million ($29.3 million) to the newly set up European Media and Information Fund to combat fake news, the company said on Wednesday.
The contribution comes amid criticism that the technology giant isn’t doing enough to debunk online disinformation, which surged during the COVID-19 pandemic and during the U.S. election last year.
The chief executives of Google, Facebook FB, and Twitter TWTR, were grilled by U.S. lawmakers last week over the proliferation of disinformation on social media platforms.
Google, which is owned by Alphabet GOOGL, is the first tech company to contribute to the European Media and Information Fund that was launched last week by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute.
The fund, which has a duration of five years, will provide grants to researchers, fact-checkers, not-for-profits and other public interest-oriented organizations working on disinformation research and strengthening media literacy and fact-checking.
“While navigating the uncertainty and challenges of the last year, it has proven more important than ever for people to access accurate information, and sort facts from fiction,” said Matt Brittin, head of Google’s business & operations, in a blog post.
Brittin cited a recent report that showed that fewer than one in 10 Europeans have participated in any form of online media literacy training.
Google’s contribution comes as tech giants face intense regulatory pressure in the European Union over online content. The European Commission — the executive branch of the 27-member bloc — presented sweeping proposals in December 2020 outlining new responsibilities for digital platforms over content they host.
New rules in the Digital Services Act, which requires the approval of the European Council and European Parliament, include the removal of illegal goods, services and content; advertising transparency measures; and obligations for large platforms to take action against the abuse of their systems.
Tech companies could face severe fines for noncompliance, with a very large online platform facing fines of up to 6% of global revenue for a serious breach of the rules. An oversight structure will also be established, with the ability to directly sanction platforms that reach more than 10% of the EU’s population of 45 million users.
The Digital Services Act is expected to directly impact Alphabet, which owns the world’s two most popular search engines in Google and YouTube, and Facebook, the largest social media network with more than 2.5 billion monthly active users.