Google explains how it's tackling the coronavirus outbreak

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Google

Google's efforts to inform people about the coronavirus outbreak extend well beyond a search alert. The company has outlined all the ways it's addressing COVID-19, including a bid to stamp out misinformation. On top of the SOS Alert (with news and tips) in web searches, you'll also see Knowledge Panels to explain the condition and how to deal with it. YouTube, meanwhile, will direct people to the WHO and local organizations through the homepage and provide ad space to government organizations in affected areas. Google Maps will also bring up "helpful and reliable local information," although the company didn't say what that entailed.

What you don't see will also matter. Google said it was "working around the clock" to stamp out conspiracy theories and other misinformation, including malware and phishing scams exploiting fear of the coronavirus outbreak. It's blocking all ads trying to exploit the outbreak while helping the WHO and governments run useful ads. YouTube is pulling videos that push bogus prevention claims instead of telling people to seek medical help. The Play Store already has policies barring both exploitative apps and those with "misleading or potentially harmful" health info.

Even the DeepMind team is getting involved. It use the latest version of its AlphaFold AI system to produce structure predictions for proteins linked to SARS-CoV-2 in a bid to help understand the virus and develop treatments. The predictions haven't been verified through experiments, but Google is betting that the faster release could make a meaningful impact.