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Current Blog Category: Google News Blog

A new machine learning app for reporting on hate in America

18 Aug

Hate crimes in America have historically been difficult to track since there is very little official data collected. What data does exist is incomplete and not very useful for reporters keen to learn more. This led ProPublica — with the support of the Google News Lab — to form Documenting Hate earlier this year, a collaborative reporting project that aims to create a national database for hate crimes by collecting and categorizing news stories related to hate crime attacks and abuses from across the country.

Now, with ProPublica, we are launching a new machine learning tool to help journalists covering hate news leverage this data in their reporting.

The Documenting Hate News Index — built by the Google News Lab, data visualization studio Pitch Interactive and ProPublica — takes a raw feed of Google News articles from the past six months and uses the Google Cloud Natural Language API to create a visual tool to help reporters find news happening across the country. It’s a constantly-updating snapshot of data from this year, one which is valuable as a starting point to reporting on this area of news.

The Documenting Hate project launched in response to the lack of national data on hate crimes. While the FBI is required by law to collect data about hate crimes, the data is incomplete because local jurisdictions aren’t required to report incidents up to the federal government.

All of which underlines the value of the Documenting Hate Project, which is powered by a number of different news organisations and journalists who collect and verify reports of hate crimes and events. Documenting Hate is informed by both reports from members of the public and raw Google News data of stories from across the nation.

The new Index will help make this data easier to understand and visualize.  It is one of the first visualisations to use machine learning to generate its content using the Google Natural Language API, which analyses text and extracts information about people, places, and events. In this case, it helps reporters by digging out locations, names and other useful data from the 3,000-plus news reports. The feed is updated every day, and goes back to February 2017.

The feed is generated from news articles that cover events suggestive of hate crime, bias or abuse — such as anti-semitic graffiti or local court reports about incidents. We’re also monitoring the feed to ensure that errant stories don’t slip in; i.e., searches for phrases that just include the word ‘hate’. (This hasn’t happened yet but we will continue to pay close attention.)

The Documenting Hate coalition of reporters has already covered a number of stories on this area, including an examination of white supremacy in Charlottesville, racist graffiti, aggression at a concert in Columbus, Ohio and the disturbing rise of hate incidents in schools.

Users of the app can filter the reports by searching for a keyword in the search box or by clicking on algorithmically-generated keywords. They can also see reports by date by clicking ‘calendar’.

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The Hate News Index is available now and we will be developing it further over the next few months as we see how journalists use it day to day to unearth these stories of hate and help collate a national database to monitor.

The ProPublica-led coalition includes The Google News Lab, Univision News, the New York Times, WNYC, BuzzFeed News, First Draft, Meedan, New America Media, The Root, Latino USA, The Advocate, 100 Days in Appalachia and Ushahidi. The coalition is also working with civil-rights groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, and schools such as the University of Miami School of Communications.

As part of our mission to create new resources for the journalism community, we are also open-sourcing the data on our GitHub page — let us know what you do with it by emailing newslabtrends@google.com.

 

Helping publishers bust annoying ads

08 Aug

At some point, we’ve all been caught off guard by an annoying ad online—like a video automatically playing at full volume, or a pop-up standing in the way to the one thing we’re trying to find. Thanks to research conducted by the Coalition for Better Ads, we now know which ad experiences rank lowest among consumers and are most likely to drive people to install ad blockers.

Ads, good and bad, help fund the open web. But 69 percent of people who installed ad blockers said they were motivated by annoying or intrusive ads. When ads are blocked, publishers don’t make money.

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In June we launched the Ad Experience Report to help publishers understand if their site has ads that violate the Coalition’s Better Ads Standards. In just two months, 140,000 publishers worldwide have viewed the report.

“This report is great for helping publishers adapt to the Better Ads Standards. The level of transparency and data is incredibly actionable. It literally says here’s the issue, here’s how to fix it. I think it will be helpful for all publishers.
-Katya Moukhina, Director of Programmatic Operations, POLITICO

We’re already starting to see data trends that can give publishers insights into the most common offending ads. Here’s a look at what we know so far.

It’s official: Popups are the most annoying ads on the web

Pop-up ads are the most common annoying ads found on publisher sites. On desktop they account for 97 percent of the violations!  These experiences can be bad for business: 50 percent of users surveyed say they would not revisit or recommend a page that had a pop-up ad.

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Instead of pop-ups, publishers can use less disruptive alternatives like full-screen inline ads. They offer the same amount of screen real estate as pop-ups—without covering up any content. Publishers can find more tips and alternatives in our best practices guide.

Mobile and desktop have different issues

On mobile the issues are more varied. Pop-ups account for 54 percent of issues found, while 21 percent of issues are due to high ad density: A mobile page flooded with ads takes longer to load, and this makes it harder for people to find what they’re looking for.

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Most issues come from smaller sites with fewer resources

Our early reporting shows that most issues are not coming from mainstream publishers, like daily newspapers or business publications. They come from smaller sites, who often don’t have the same access to quality control resources as larger publishers.

To help these publishers improve their ads experiences, we review sites daily and record videos of the ad experiences that have been found non-compliant with the Better Ads Standards. If a site is in a “failing” or “warning” state, their Ad Experience Report will include these visuals, along with information about the Better Ad Standards and how the issues may impact their site.

Looking ahead

Over the next few weeks we’ll begin notifying sites with issues. For even more insights on the types of sites and violations found, publishers can visit The Ad Experience Report API.

The good news is that people don’t hate all ads—just annoying ones. Replacing annoying ads with more acceptable ones will help ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to sustain their work with online advertising. This is why we support the Coalition’s efforts to develop marketplace guidelines for supporting the Better Ads Standards and will continue working with them on the standards as they evolve.

 

Helping journalists experiment with 360 content

25 Jul

There’s already a huge amount of innovation in virtual reality and immersive storytelling—with many newsrooms experimenting and succeeding in the field—but for some, the ability to create 360 content can still be limited.

Perhaps predicting the rise of 360 technology, in 2014 Australian creative agency Grumpy Sailor worked with Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney on an experiment called Story Spheres, which stitches together photos and audio. It allows journalists, documentary makers and educators to tell powerful stories if they don’t have access to video.

Working with the same team behind the first prototype, the Google News Lab is now supporting the next iteration of the project. Today new features will help publishers—from individual journalists to large newsrooms—create and brand their immersive audio experiences. A new website will help journalists brand their creations with their own logos, help them credit their work and embed it on their own website. It’s now even simpler to upload a 360 image, edit the imagery, add an audio layer and navigate from one experience to another.

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In the UK, Trinity Mirror has already experimented with the new tool: The Liverpool Echo took their readers through the famous dockyards of the city, and the Manchester Evening News provided a snapshot of the flowers and balloons placed in St Ann’s Square as a tribute for the Manchester terrorist attacks. In Norway, Nettavisen has been experimenting with the tool by giving their readers a glimpse at the best podcasts for their readers this summer.

Emily McCartney, a coder and “techxplorer” at Grumpy Sailor, says the improved tool will help users, too: “There’s so much news to consume, and people want to be able to jump between stories without losing any time, and Story Spheres help you do that.”

Discover the tool for yourself, made by Grumpy Sailor with the support of Creative Lab in Sydney and the Google News Lab.

 

Journalism 360 grant winners announced

11 Jul

While advances in immersive storytelling—360 video, virtual reality, augmented reality and drones—have the potential to make journalism richer and more engaging, it can be challenging for journalists to adopt and embrace these new tools. In 2016, the Google News Lab, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Online News Association created Journalism 360, a coalition of hundreds of journalists from around the world to build new skills required to tell immersive stories. Today, the coalition announced the 11 winners of its first grant challenge, which will fund projects to tackle some of the most critical challenges facing the advancement of immersive journalism: the need for better tools and trainings, the development of best practices, and new use cases.

Here’s a bit more about the winning projects:

  • Aftermath VR app: New Cave Media, led by Alexey Furman in Kyiv, Ukraine.
    An app that applies photogrammetry, which uses photography to measure and map objects, to recreate three-dimensional scenes of news events and narrate what happened through voiceover and archival footage.

  • AI-generated Anonymity in VR Journalism: University of British Columbia, led by Taylor Owen, Kate Hennessy and Steve DiPaol in Vancouver, Canada.
    Helps reporters test whether an emotional connection can be maintained in immersive storytelling formats when a character’s identity is hidden.
  • Community and Ethnic Media Journalism 360: City University of New York, led by Bob Sacha in New York. 
    Makes immersive storytelling more accessible to community media (local broadcasters, public radio and TV, etc.) and ethnic media through hands-on training and access to equipment. The team also aims to produce a “how to” guide for using immersive storytelling to cover local events such as festivals.
  • Dataverses: Information Visualization into VR Storytelling: The Outliers Collective, led by Oscar Marin Miro in Barcelona, Spain.
    Makes it easier to integrate data visualizations into immersive storytelling through a platform that includes virtual reality videos, photos and facts. For example, a user could show a map of the Earth highlighting places without water access, and link each area to a virtual reality video that explores the experience of living there.
  • Facing Bias: The Washington Post, led by Emily Yount in Washington, D.C. 
    Develops a smartphone tool that will use augmented reality to analyze a reader’s facial expressions while they view images and statements that may affirm or contradict their beliefs. The aim is to give readers a better understanding of their own biases.
  • Spatial and Head-Locked Stereo Audio for 360 Journalism: NPR, led by Nicholas Michael in Washington, D.C.
    Develops best practices for immersive storytelling audio by producing two virtual reality stories with a particular focus on sound-rich scenes. The project will explore, test and share spatial audio findings from these experiments.

  • Immersive Storytelling from the Ocean Floor:  MIT Future Ocean Lab, led by Allan Adams in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
    Creates a camera and lighting system to produce immersive stories underwater and uncover the hidden experiences that lie beneath the ocean’s surface.

  • Location-Based VR Data Visualization: Arizona State University, Cronkite School of Journalism, led by Retha Hill in Tempe, Arizona.
    Helps journalists and others easily create location-based data visualizations in a virtual reality format. For example, users could explore crime statistics or education data on particular neighborhoods through data overlays on virtual reality footage of these areas.

  • Voxhop by Virtual Collaboration Research Inc.:  Ainsley Sutherland in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
    Makes it easy to craft audio-driven virtual reality stories through a tool that would allow journalists to upload, generate or construct a three-dimensional environment and narrate the scene from multiple perspectives. For example, a reporter could construct a three-dimensional crime scene and include voiceovers detailing accounts of what transpired in the space.

  • Scene VR: Northwestern University Knight Lab, led by Zach Wise in Evanston, Illinois.
    Develops a tool that would make it easier for journalists and others to create virtual reality photo experiences that include interactive navigation, using their smartphone or a camera.

  • The Wall: The Arizona Republic and USA TODAY Network, led by Nicole Carroll in Phoenix, Arizona.
    Uses virtual reality, data and aerial video, and documentary shorts to bring the story of the proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico to life.

Over the course of the next year, the project leads will share their learnings on the Journalism 360 blog. Because this is all about building community, the recipients will also gather at the Online News Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. this September to discuss their projects, answer questions and share their progress. In early 2018, they will present their finished projects.

To learn more about Journalism 360, follow the blog or on Twitter. You can learn more about the Google News Lab’s work in immersive journalism on our website.

 

Making it easier for publishers to share fact check content

06 Jul

With the spread of misinformation online, it’s become increasingly important for news publishers to have a way of communicating to users what information is verified. In 2016, we launched the Fact Check label in Google News and Search to make it easier for people to find articles that fact check public information, ranging from claims to public statements to statistics. Today we’re making it even easier for publishers to help Google find and distribute accurate, fact-checked content across Google News and Search.

There are two ways publishers can signal their fact check content to Google. The first is by adding the Share the Facts widget, which is a plug-and-play way for publishers to indicate their fact checks. Today, we’re expanding the Share the Facts widget to six new languages: German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesian, Hindi and Japanese (it’s already available in English, French and Italian). Share the Facts was created by Jigsaw and the Duke University Reporters’ Lab led by Bill Adair. Currently, organizations such as The Washington Post, PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, La Stampa, Gossip Cop, AGI, The Ferret and Climate Feedback are using the Share the Facts widget.

In addition to new Share the Facts widget languages, soon you’ll see fact-checked content from these new partners:

  • Aos Fatos, a Brazilian fact-checking organization launched in 2015

  • Wiener Zeitung, an Austrian news organization founded in the 1700s

  • El Confidencial, a Spanish news organization founded in 2001

We hope to expand the widget soon to publishers in Indonesia, Japan and India.

The second way that publishers can get involved with Fact Check is by adding Schema.org ClaimReview code directly to article pages. Applying the code to fact check content means Google News and Search may apply the “fact check”  label to your content.

Expanding the use of the Fact Check tag to more news organizations around the world is important to raising the visibility of quality journalism on Google. If you’d like to learn more about how to participate in the Fact Check tag, head over to our help center. You can get information on the Share the Facts widget on their website, or email the team at team@sharethefacts.org.

 

More than EUR 21 million in funding from Round 3 of the Digital News Initiative Fund

06 Jul

Two years ago, we established the Digital News Initiative (DNI), a partnership between Google and news publishers in Europe to support high-quality journalism through technology and innovation. As well as investing in product development, research and training, we also launched the DNI Innovation Fund, committing €150 million to innovation projects across the European news industry. Today, we’re announcing the recipients of our third round of funding, with 107 projects in 27 countries being offered funding worth €21,968,154 in total.

In this third round, we received more than 988 project submissions from 27 countries. Of the 107 projects funded today, 49 are prototypes (early stage projects requiring up to €50k of funding), 31 are medium-sized projects (requiring up to €300k of funding) and 27 are large projects (requiring up to €1m of funding).  

What’s new in this round? First and foremost,there is growing interest in fact checking experiments, with 29 percent more applications in that field in comparison to the previous rounds. We’ve also seen a rise in projects including artificial intelligence (+23 percent more applications than last round), investigative reporting (+20 percent more) and immersive approaches through virtual and augmented reality (+20 percent more). Last but not least, this round was also about collaboration between organisations and across borders, with 47 percent of all the applications selected for funding having a collaborative dimension. Here’s a sample of some of the projects funded in this round:

[Prototype] The Open State Foundation – Netherlands

The Open State Foundation promotes transparency through the use of open data and innovative and creative applications. It will receive €50k to prototype a real-time database of what politicians say and do, drawn from a wide range of sources. The goal is to increase transparency and give journalists better access to political information, in particular on niche topics, local politics, backbenchers and alternative local parties.

[Medium] Publico.es – Spain

With its Transparent Journalism Tool (TJ Tool) and funding of €208,500 from the DNI Innovation Fund, Publico.es will offer an open source application that gives readers behind-the-scenes access citizens to the newspaper’s editorial process, so they can trace the newsgathering and editing work in a radically transparent way. It will also provide the publisher with data about the cost of producing each story, with a view to monetizing more content via formats like micropayments.  

[Large] Deutsche Welle – Germany

Deutsche Welle reports in 30 languages and reaches more than 135 million listeners around the world. Doing so cost-effectively is a major challenge. But with €437,500 from the DNI Innovation Fund, the German public broadcaster is building “news.bridge – Bridge the Language Barrier for News” a platform that integrates and enhances a mix of off-the-shelf tools for automated transcription, translation, voiceover and summarising of video and audio content in virtually any language.

[Large] WikiTribune – UK

WikiTribune, a news platform launched by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been awarded €385,000 to scale its operations. It seeks to counter the proliferation of low quality news sources with fact-based, transparently sourced articles that are written by professional journalists and verified and improved by a community of volunteers. Like Wikipedia, it’s free, and ad free, but funded by supporters.

Since February 2016, we’ve evaluated more than 3,000 applications, carried out 748 interviews with project leaders, and offered 359 recipients in 29 countries a total of €73m. To mark this milestone, we’re hosting our first DNI Innovation Fund event today in Amsterdam, where 24 project teams that received funding in Round 1 or 2 will share details of their work and results to date.

We’re also publishing the Fund’s first annual report, which outlines the early impact of the projects funded so far. From startups to large newsrooms, at national and local news outlets, DNI-funded projects are embracing the opportunities of big data, blockchain technology and machine learning, evolving and reinventing everything from subscriptions and fact checking to video production and reader engagement.  These projects are helping shape the future of high-quality journalism—and some of them are already directly benefiting the European public today too.

Digital News Initiative Fund: Experiment, Innovate, Invent

Finally, we’re excited to announce that the application window for Round 4 of the DNI Innovation Fund will open in early September and will run for 30 days. Based on feedback from Round 3, we’ll be making a few changes to the application process, and we’ll be posting details to the digitalnewsinitiative.com website in the coming weeks.