Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai has sent a memo reminding thousands of his workers about Google’s important role as a provider of timely and accurate information in uncertain times, reffering to Coronavirus.
“You’ve heard me talk about helpfulness in the context of moments big and small. This is one of those big moments,” he wrote.
Google's Trust and Safety team has been working around the clock and across the globe to safeguard Google users from phishing, conspiracy theories, malware and misinformation. On YouTube, Pichai says that Google is working to quickly remove any content that claims to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment. On Google Ads, the company is blocking all ads capitalizing on the coronavirus, and has already blocked tens of thousands of ads over the last six weeks. Google is also also helping WHO and government organizations run PSA ads. In addition, Google Play also prohibits developers from capitalizing on sensitive events, and the company's content policies strictly prohibit apps that feature medical or health-related content or functionalities that are misleading or potentially harmful.
Google searches related to the virus now trigger an “SOS Alert,” with news from mainstream publications including National Public Radio, followed by information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization displayed prominently.
Despite such hands-on responses to the virus outbreak, Google stressed that it wasn’t manually changing search results. The company's systems are designed to automatically detect searches that may be related to topics like health and apply the same treatment of elevating reliable and authoritative sources in the results.
People continue to come to Google to search for vaccine information, travel advisories and prevention tips (for example, search queries for "coronavirus cleaning advice" spiked over 1,700 percent over the last week in the U.S.). Pichai says that Google's SOS Alert in Search connects people with the latest news plus safety tips and links to more authoritative information from the World Health Organization (WHO). For people specifically looking for information about symptoms, prevention or treatments, Google is working to expand its Knowledge Panels for health conditions to include a COVID-19 panel.