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Google earmarks $6.5 million to fight coronavirus misinformation

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NCDC, others partner on authentic data as NCC stresses emergency helpline

To address the coronavirus pandemic, Google is providing $6.5 million in funding to fact-checkers and non-profit organisations fighting misinformation across the global.

Through its Google News Initiative (GNI), the search engine would be supporting Africa Check in Nigeria, and Data Leads in partnership with BOOM Live in India to leverage data from Question Hub. The effort is to see to the training of 1,000 journalists across India and Nigeria to spot health misinformation.

Google’s online resources are being updated to support the vital work of media personnel, as the GNI Training Centre has tools for data journalism and verification in 16 languages, with a global team of teaching fellows delivering workshops entirely online in 10 languages.

News and Information Credibility Lead, Google News Initiative News Lab, Alexios Mantzarlis, said: “Health authorities have warned that an over-abundance of information can make it harder for people to obtain reliable guidance about the coronavirus pandemic. Helping the world make sense of this information requires a broad response involving scientists, journalists, public figures, technology platforms and many others.”

Some other media outlets and non-profit establishments globally which would receive support through the GNI include First Draft, an online resource hub; and Full Fact and Maldita.es to coordinate efforts in Europe.

In a similar vein, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is to partner two independent fact-checking organisations operating in Nigeria – Dubawa and Africa Check – to provide accurate information while detecting and dispelling misinformation on the epidemic.

Since the declaration of the virus as a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO), both organisations have deployed their media platforms to verify images, videos, audio clips and texts circulated widely on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, among others.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, NCDC’s Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, pointed out that misinformation and disinformation had the potential to stir panic, spread the ailment further and jeopardise global efforts to contain it.

Also yesterday, the National Emergency Number 112 established by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is said to be providing succour to Nigerians as the nation battles to COVID-19 challenge.

According to the regulator, the citizens are able to call emergency response agencies/or first responders with respect to the epidemic and other health-related issues and emergencies.

In a statement yesterday, the NCC said the states and Federal Government agencies were leveraging the 112 national emergency line whose calls are handled by the Emergency Communication Centre (ECC) nationwide.


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