Google turns its hand to fighting election abuse

The EU parliament elections are fast-approaching and Google is taking it upon itself to prevent disinformation surrounding it

Google has announced it will zero its sights on disinformation campaigns and state-sponsored phishing attacks in an effort to prevent abuse of elections.

It said it has dedicated teams, many of which are based in Europe, whose job it is to identify and mitigate a range of abuse which can include tactics such as alteration of Maps so users cannot find their nearest polling station.

Measures will also be taken to promote genuine, informative content related to elections and actively combat the effects of disinformation, an issue which is becoming increasingly more common.

These measures include adding a 'Fact Check' tag to news stories it indexes which helps users verify the information they read in big news stories. Also, as a result of a rise in scammers trying to take advantage of the growing popularity of online news to make money, Google has prohibited websites in its ad network from advertising misrepresentative content.

Google is also pushing its Project Shield service which acts as DDoS protection and is free for bona fide news and human rights sites.

"It's never been more necessary to defend these groups from digital attacks that can exploit many thousands of computers to overwhelm a website's servers and take it offline--preventing voters from getting official information when they need it most," said Google.

For the first time, Jigsaw, a technology incubator program run by Google, will offer the same free DDoS Protection for election monitoring sites so the right information is always at the voters' hands.

"Supporting elections in Europe and around the world is hugely important to us," said Google. "We'll continue to work in partnership with the EU through its Code of Practice on Disinformation, including by publishing regular reports about our work to prevent abuse, as well as with governments, law enforcement, others in our industry and the NGO community to strengthen protections around elections, protect users, and help combat disinformation."

Google's Jigsaw was first introduced in 2017 but was in development for years earlier. In 2017, the Google-Jigsaw collaboration introduced "Protect Your Election" package which offered a bundle of free security tools designed to help election monitoring sites protect themselves against digital attacks.

Although Google said that as of Tuesday, Jigsaw's 'Protect Your Election' package was now available, at first glance, it might not appear to be any different from the same package released in 2017, and it's not. The only difference is that it is now available to be used by European elections, whereas previously it was reserved for national elections.

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