In a welcome move, tech giants Google and Facebook have decided to address the fake news doing rounds on their networks, especially after the false news stories garnering attention became one of the biggest issues post the US Presidential Elections.
On Monday, Alphabet Inc’s Google announced that it’s going to make amends to its policy which will restrict access to fake news producing websites to their ad networks — AdSense and AdWords.
This means that they won’t be showing ads or accepting ads on their networks from websites which are deemed to spread misinformation, hence putting a stop to their revenues from advertisement served by Google. The methodology to be implied by Google to scan thousands of websites to determine the same is unknown.
In a statement to Reuters, Google representative said, “Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property.”
During the US elections, Google’s top results showed a few results which were baseless in reality.
The search giant processes close to 40,000 search results per second which are roughly equal to 3.5 billion searches per day.
This certainly goes to show that a lot of people must’ve seen fake news article emerging at the top of the search.
A news post titled ‘Final Election 2016 numbers; Trump won both popular (62.9M – 62.2M) and electoral college votes (306-232) … Hey Change.org, scrap your loony petition now’ from WordPress site ’70 News’ was showed as a top result if a user were to search for the final election count.
No kidding. That is the exact title of the post that was trending worldwide on Google’s relevant news results. You can still see the post — just Google 70 News and the first results is the fake news item that was a top news story three days ago on Google News.
Fake news is mostly characterised by click-bait headlines and sensational stories. Hence, the traction on these stories is a lot; more so, if they show up on top of Google search results or Facebook’s trending list, nothing is stopping such stories from turning viral.
Facebook follows Google in banning fake news from their network
Facebook received a lot of criticism in the recent days due to their alleged role in allowing fake news websites help determine the result of the current US President-elect’s campaigns. Mark Zuckerberg has refuted these claims, but reportedly several employees of the organisation are of a different opinion.
“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post.
Soon after Google announced its new policy of restricting fake news websites from accessing its Adwords or Adsense services, Facebook has followed suit. It has announced that websites which are reported for spreading misinformation won’t be allowed to use their Audience Network Ads.
Facebook maintains a list of illegal, deceptive and misleading websites and will add any site found serving fake news to this list, revoking the site’s access to their ad network and potentially decreasing its reach amongst the existing users.
According to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 62% of adult-Americans consume news on social media.
That’s a lot of people consuming news via social media and being misinformed in case a fake news piece is served to them.
The ‘trending’ section of Facebook had come under fire in the past too when they ran a story on Megyn Kelly being fired by Fox News. Fake news doing runs on Facebook isn’t a new phenomenon.
This has been going on for several years now, and the social media giant has come up with updates to battle spams and click bait articles with the help of user reports. Facebook even asked its users to help them filter out unverified news sources by reporting them.
Few of the fake stories trending on Facebook in the recent past are:
FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide
Pope Francis shocks the world, endorses Donald Trump for President, releases statement
Facebook ads have massive reach and so do Google ads, which are almost everywhere on the internet. In such a scenario, having fake news running on several ad networks translates into millions of people being fed misrepresented data and facts.
Exactly how much both of these companies were involved in Trump’s victory is up for debate at the moment, although Gizmodo’s report claims that Facebook has participated in suppressing conservative news.
Both internet giants are taking steps to curb the spread of misinformation is a welcome change, one that should’ve been implemented long back, but as they say — better late than never.