Click bait stories on both Facebook and Google are nothing new. What is new is the approach of both companies to weed out those stories that are false and intended only to draw viewers to ads within the “articles”. This sudden shift in the focus of energy by these two entities occurred shortly after the presidential election. A great backlash was experienced, guided by those who felt that these fake news stories allowed by both Facebook and Google encouraged unfounded information relating to the presidential candidates. Each company has elected to combat these spammers in a different way. Facebook has thoroughly updated its policies on advertising and now specifies that deceptive and misleading content does include these fake new articles. Google’s AdSense advertising network is being evaluated to plan for a change in policy that will effectively prevent websites from using it if they contain content that is false or misleading.
Within the higher levels of the Facebook organization, it is rumored that the reason for this change in policy has caused infighting with the group executives. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Chief Executive, remains firm in his position that Facebook’s allowance of the false news stories has had any sway over voters in the recent presidential election. Other high-ranking employees are sure that the fake news stories allowed to post throughout Facebook did actually sway voters toward voting for Donald Trump, specifically. Many voters based their votes on incorrect information about the opposing candidate, Hillary Clinton. Many of the news stories that were creating false information about Clinton were located in Macedonia. Each time a viewer clicked on the link for the article, the author would earn a payment.
In order to maintain the proper level of freedom and privacy for Facebook users, the new guidelines will not move to restrict any new articles shared by users on their walls. Instead, it will only target advertisements that are allowed in general news feeds and on the side bars of the website. Criticism for Facebooks’s lack of filter during the election and months leading up to it has led to a full review of their advertisement policies.
Google has taken another approach, moving to implement quality control when evaluating the sources that provide news stories for their sponsored ads and for participation in AdSense. While the content of ads allowed on Google continues to be monitored by both software systems and live people, there is still of course content that is allowed through even though it has not been verified as accurate. Many legitimate businesses have expressed hesitation when faced with the prospect of having their advertisements featured along with ones that are completely fabricated. This apprehension from regular customers may lead to a decrease in advertising sales by Google to their approved sources of news.
If both Facebook and Google move ahead with plans to thoroughly clean out fake news sources and improve the filtering process used, there will be a decline in sources of revenue for these fake news article authors. The thought is that if there is a lack of income for the fake news articles, the attraction to writing them will fade and the commonality of theses articles will inevitably decrease. The fact that both of these large platforms are willing to combat fake news stories is a sign that this style of reporting will not only decrease in popularity for the authors, but may also deter future authors from posting similar stories.In addition to bumping up their criteria for vetting potential advertisers on AdSense, Google may also find it necessary to alter the algorithms used filter news stories sources. It is also possible that they may find the need to create a brand new program to evaluate articles posted through the Google News Service to flag potentially false news stories before they reach the regular news feed and sponsored stories area. Interestingly, Google has been able to create an Artificial Intelligence program that is able to learn from existing criteria for judging false news sources and turn those parameters to incoming news stories. It is said to be the goal for Google to have the ability to filter out all of the fake and incensing news stories that attempt to come up through their feeds.
Although several positive steps are being taken by Facebook and Google, it will remain difficult to police all information that is posted on these platforms. An sizable tweak in software and an increase in worker hours will be needed to maintain the higher levels of quality that these businesses are trying to maintain. However, these actions will maintain and improve relations with legitimate business partners trying to advertise through the platforms and users alike.