Don’t believe everything that you read, especially if it’s broadcasted on a less than reliable website.
The web is an unscrupulous place full of sites looking to get one over on the competition. What better way to generate more attention and get those all-important click throughs than with a fabricated news story? It may sound like sarcasm but you’d be surprised at the lengths webmasters will go to.
Fortunately, these tricksters and phonies are about get some virtual justice thanks to recent reforms from both Google and Facebook. Mislead the public and you’re likely to face harsh consequences.
A Google spokesperson told Reuters “These policy updates only occurred several weeks ago with Google leading the way. We will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, mis-state, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property.”
By restricting these ‘fake’ news sites from using their ad networks, the chance to make profit from exaggerated information is far diminished. There’s still no evidence that Google has the ability to appropriately identify such sites but it seems to be a step in the right direction.
Following soon after, Facebook updated the legal jargon shown in polices under ‘Audience Network’. Their advertising platform already bans any sites shown to produce ‘misleading or illegal’ content but with this new update, you’ll notice that fake news sites are included as well.
It couldn’t come at a better time as Facebook faced major backlash for promoting fake news during the US election. Allegedly, the Facebook algorithm was promoting more than 100 pro Trump news sites from one Balkan town in the run up to election, something that is thought to have swung the vote. Cleary, the ramifications from fake news aren’t to be underestimated.
Given the recent developments from Google and Facebook, many are still questioning whether cutting revenue through adverts is enough of a deterrent. There’s always the potential to earn revenue in other ways which would suggest there’s still a long way to go before this battle is over.
It’s the algorithms which need to be assessed to ensure they don’t actively promote these sites. That may be difficult as it would seem more users engage with fake and exaggerated news, and therefore that news would be promoted more.
Facebook are publically keeping a tight lid on that backlash during the election but insider sources would suggest some serious concerns from employees. It’s suggested that there’s major focus on tackling this growing problem, and not just by restricting adverts.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said “Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance.”
So far, there’s been no public acknowledgement of a change to algorithm for either Google or Facebook. Given the increased public pressure for real news that’s non-biased, it should be top priority for these tech companies. Hopefully, one day soon the web will be a trusted source of publication.