By now, you’ve likely heard U.S. President Donald Trump warn us of the perils of “fake news.” Perhaps you’ve even fallen victim to fake news, too. Social media makes it easier than ever to be lured in by a scintillating headline, only to find its ensuing report to be inaccurate.
In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, many discovered that “fake news” — or deliberately spreading falsehoods presented under the guise of news — was a lucrative enterprise. Some publishers even reported making thousands of dollars off of advertisements that ran with their fake stories. Yet those that profit off of fake news will soon find it difficult to continue doing so.
Google and Facebook represent some of the most popular places for readers to find fake news. With more and more fake news going viral, many question whether these platforms hold a moral responsibility to curb fake news from being broadcast on their sites.
It seems that Facebook and Google agree. Towards the end of last year, they agreed to ban publishers of fake news from profiting off of ads on their sites. Facebook will take further measures, too: flagging and fact-checking any news stories that arouse suspicion.
A recent Google report stated that it reviewed 550 sites thought to produce fake news. If you don’t think this number is too high, think again: this only came from November to December. Google stopped 340 out of those 550 sites from showing ads. Google also took down nearly 200 sites from its AdSense network. Ultimately, Google removed 1.7 billion ads that violated its policies throughout the year.
Google didn’t name which sites they removed. They also declined to delve into how much money fake news publishers made from ads on their site.
While many certainly applaud Google for their efforts to ban fake news, others feel responsibility lies elsewhere. Many advertisers face criticism for aligning themselves with publishers of fake news. However, until advertisers can know exactly where their ads will be published, advertising platforms feel mounting pressure to remove fake news themselves.
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