Headline: What’s Google doing for Pakistan’s elections?

Google says supporting polls is critical part of company’s responsibility to its users and democratic process

Screengrab for Googles search trends page for Pakistans elections — Google
Screengrab for Google’s search trends page for Pakistan’s elections — Google

With the February 8 elections around the corner, Google said Thursday that supporting polls is a critical part of the company’s responsibility to its users and the democratic process.

As Pakistanis take to the polls to vote in the national election to elect representatives for the National Assembly and provincial assemblies, Google said it is committed to working with government, industry, and civil society to connect voters with helpful and authoritative information and keep its platforms safe from abuse.

Connecting voters with helpful information

The company said it knows that in the run-up to elections, people need useful and relevant information to help them navigate the electoral process.

“We make reliable information easily available with helpful product features, showing data from trusted, nonpartisan organisations on how and where to vote across our products,” the search engine said.

Google Search: The company’s ranking systems are designed to elevate authoritative information and provide context to users on a variety of election-related information. In addition, the Google homepage will have links that direct voters to authoritative information on ‘how to vote’ and ‘how to register to vote’

YouTube: For news and information related to the election, Google’s recommendation system prominently surfaces content and relevant context from authoritative sources, including local and national news sources on the homepage, in search results and “Up Next” panel, to connect people to high-quality election news and information.

Google Trends: to help the media and public explore what voters care about this election, the company launched a Google Trends page, a tool that helps surface the top queries, topics, and interests in parties running in the elections.

The page also includes data on the top election-related topics searched in each part of the country, such as the economy, taxes and wages, among others. This does not reflect voting intentions but it does provide unique insights into what people are searching for.

Google News Initiative: Google ran a series of workshops to equip journalists with the right resources to inform their news coverage during elections, including teaching them about tools for news verification, digital security, and using Google Trends.

What’s the focus on?

Farhan Qureshi, Google’s Country Director for Pakistan said: “In the lead-up to the election, we have focused our efforts on supporting Pakistanis who are expected to cast their vote by helping them connect to useful and relevant election-related information online.

We have also invested in the news ecosystem and trained journalists and newsrooms to report authoritative and credible news ahead of the election cycle. Recently, we launched a Google Trends Pakistan General Election page to make it easier for the media to find this data for their stories,” she added.

Safeguarding platforms from abuse

The company said protecting the integrity of elections also means keeping its products and services safe from abuse.

Across Google and YouTube, the company said it has long-standing policies to keep our platforms safe, and that applies to everyone and for all types of content, including elections.

“Our YouTube Community Guidelines include policies against hate speech, harassment, incitement to violence, technically manipulated content, and certain types of election misinformation.”

“We rely on a combination of machine learning and human reviewers to identify and remove content that violates our policies – between July and September 2023, we removed over 8.1 million videos and over 10 million channels globally for violating our Community Guidelines on YouTube,” the company said.

Qureshi added: “Election integrity is a top priority for YouTube, and we’ve been working to ensure the right policies and systems are in place to support the country’s elections. On top of connecting people to authoritative and quality information, we remove violative content in a timely manner with the help of machine learning and trained reviewers. Our goal is to maintain the right balance between protecting our community from harm and enabling a diversity of viewpoints to thrive on YouTube.”

At Google, our mission is to make the world’s information accessible and useful, and we are committed to surfacing and connecting voters to authoritative and helpful information online.

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