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Google unveils massive coronavirus response, including Search updates

March 9th, 2020 at 3:25 PM
Coronavirus update
  • The coronavirus outbreak shows no signs of slowing down in the US, with the latest numbers as of the time of this writing including more than 108,000 people globally having been affected and more than 3,800 deaths as a result of it.
  • Google’s CEO has spelled out a massive, multi-faceted response the search giant is implementing in response to the virus.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to roil the globe, so much so that it fed a historic US stock market plunge on Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a memo to employees of the search giant detailing its own massive response to the health crisis. A version of that memo has also been shared with reporters and the public, in which Google’s chief executive calls this “an unprecedented moment” and one that it’s important that Google approach “with a sense of calm and responsibility — because we have many people counting on us.”

Among the many steps Google has taken, it’s set up a 24-hour incident response team to stay in sync with the World Health Organization; the company is testing its capacity to increase remote work throughout the organization; some offices have shifted to a work-from-home status; Google is providing $25 million in donated ad credit to the WHO and other government agencies; and Verily, the healthcare subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is developing a small temperature patch that can be worn and which transmits data to a phone app. The goal is for that patch to provide timely notification of fever and support earlier diagnosis and treatment of something like coronavirus.

The multi-faceted response doesn’t stop there. Per Pichai, Google is also rolling out free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities for all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers around the world until July 1. “We’re also adding resources to be able to support increased demand for public livestreaming on YouTube,” Pichai’s note explains. “We’ve seen increased interest in affected regions as people look to be able to connect virtually with their communities when they are unable to do so in person.”

Other major steps Google has and is taking:

On YouTube, it’s taking down content that claims to prevent the coronavirus instead of seeking medical treatment. Google is also blocking ads that capitalize on the virus, with tens of thousands of ads having been blocked over the last six weeks.

Naturally, Search is also a big component of the Google response. “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 US),” Pichai writes. “Our 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).”

Along these lines, for anyone searching for information about symptoms, prevention, and/or treatment for the virus, Google is working to expand the Knowledge Panels in search results for health conditions to include a coronavirus panel.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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