During the last few weeks, we have noticed a large influx of Internet users criticizing Google and Facebook over how fake news on their sites may have had something to do with the outcome of presidential elections.
Google and Facebook were quick to respond by making it clear that they do not tolerate misinformation, and that they will target the fake news sites’ revenue sources.
The first one to react was Google by saying it would ban websites which focus on fake news from using its online advertising source. It didn’t take Facebook much longer to update their Facebook Audience Network Policy. Websites with illegal or misleading content were already forbidden from showing Facebook ads. The fake news sites are now added to the list of sites which are forbidden from showing Facebook ads.
Facebook was heavily criticized before they have updated their policy with claims that misleading and fake stories contributed to the election of Donald J. Trump. Despite some stories being obviously fake, it didn’t take long for some users to blame the misleading news for swinging of some voters.
Google didn’t escape the critique, with critics claiming that the company has been giving much needless importance to false news. Google spokeswoman said that the goal of the search is to provide the most relevant and useful results, but that they clearly didn’t get it right during the US election.
Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the criticism that the company has had an effect on how the people voted. He made a post during the weekend stating that 99% of what people see on Facebook is authentic, and only a fraction is fake news. Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in his post “Over all, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”
Google’s reaction seems to be more reactive with a new policy which will go into effect “imminently.” The new policy will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent or conceal the information about the publisher, the publisher’s content or the primary purpose of the web property. Google spokeswoman said that the policy change was not a reaction to the election results, but a policy that has been in the works.
We are not sure whether satire sites are going to be targeted with the new policies. The only thing we can do now is to wait and see how the two companies are going to deal with fake news in practice.