Google has confirmed it will soon release a new website dedicated to providing coronavirus information, while another Alphabet subsidiary is developing a platform to assist with testing.
The announcement comes after an apparently premature announcement from US president Donald Trump on Friday that 1,700 Google engineers were working on a coronavirus information website.
In a statement on Twitter, Google confirmed it was working with the US government to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but did not provide further information on what exactly it was doing.
“We are fully aligned and continue to work with the US government to contain the spread of COVID-19, inform citizens and protect the health of our communities,” Google said.
With confusion reigning over the weekend about what exactly Google was working on, company CEO Sundar Pichai released a statement clarifying the situation.
Google will soon be unveiling a website with information on the coronavirus, while fellow Alphabet subsidiary Verily is working on a platform to help with risk assessing and testing, initially in California.
“We’re partnering with the US government in developing a website dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention and local resources nationwide,” Pichai said in the blog post.
“This includes best practice on prevention, links to authoritative information from the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control, and helpful tips and tools from Google for individuals, teachers and businesses.”
The first version of this website will be released overnight Australia time, with Google continually updating it.
Running in tandem to this, Verily will be working with the California state government and local and federal health authorities to establish additional testing sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with an online platform to increase risk assessment and testing of at-risk individuals in the area.
It comes amid rising concerns that America is not testing nearly enough people for the coronavirus.
The platform will allow people living in California to take an online survey, with those meeting eligibility for testing to be directed to the appropriate sites based on capacity. The project is still in its early phase, Pichai said, but there are plans to launch it outside of California.
There are reports that this service was originally intended just for healthcare workers, but that the company expanded it to individuals after Trump’s comments late last week.
Google has also been actively removing COVID-19 misinformation from its various platforms, including YouTube and Google Maps.
“On YouTube, we’ve taken down thousands of videos related to dangerous or misleading coronavirus information, and we continue to remove videos that promote medically unproven methods to prevent coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment,” Pichai said.
“On Google Maps, our automated and manual review systems continue to take down false and harmful content such as fake reviews and misleading information about healthcare locations.”
In his daily press briefing on Monday, Australia time, Trump said that Pichai had called to apologise, but did not reveal what for.
“I want to thank the people at Google and Google Communications because as you know, they substantiated what I said on Friday,” Trump said.
“The head of Google, who is a great gentleman – said – called us – and apologised. I don’t know where the press got their fake news, but they got it someplace.”
Trump was likely referring to reports over the weekend that his announcement of the apparent project caught Google off guard last week.
“Neither one of the announcements were ready for prime time,” a senior White House official told The Washington Post. “People wanted news to announce.”
The reality of the work being undertaken by the Alphabet subsidiaries also doesn’t exactly match what Trump described last week, and it’s unclear where the “1,700 engineers” line came from.