Google and Facebook aim to stop the spread of false news stories online by hitting the creators where it hurts: their pocketbooks.
On Monday, both companies announced policy changes to stop the spread of “fake news” by blocking the producers of that content from using their advertising networks.
Google kicked off the action on Monday afternoon when the Silicon Valley search giant said it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service. Hours later, Facebook, the social network, updated the language in its Facebook Audience Network policy, which already says it will not display ads in sites that show misleading or illegal content, to include fake news sites.
Both companies already have strict policies for their ad networks. For instance, you can’t use Google AdSense on a porn website. Google uses a combination of algorithms and human moderation to decide whether a site is eligible to use its advertising service.
By removing a potential revenue stream, it makes the business of fake news a bit less lucrative. For instance, Buzzfeed discovered that more than 100 fake news sites were created in a tiny city in Macedonia. So it’s clear that it’s not just about influencing the election — people are taking advantage of social networks to make money using fake news.
The companies’ decisions come after growing backlash toward Facebook and Twitter for perpetuating false news stories about the 2016 presidential campaign.
The issue has provoked a fierce debate within Facebook especially, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg insisting twice in recent days that the site had no role in influencing the election.
Facebook’s steps are limited to its ad policies, and do not target fake news sites shared by users on their news feeds.
“We do not integrate or display ads in apps or sites containing content that is illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that it will continue to vet publishers to ensure compliance.
On Saturday, Zuckerberg defended his social platform, writing in a lengthy Facebook post that “more than 99
here will always be alternative revenue streams, so this move is not enough. Reducing the reach of these websites is the best way to prevent fake news sites from popping out. If Facebook, Twitter, Google News and other websites flagged fake news appropriately, then there would be no reason to create fake news sites in the first place.
UPDATE: Google is removing its “In the News” designation when desktop users use the search engine to find stories.
It will be replaced by a carousel of “Top stories” similar to what now exists on mobile. This move had been planned for quite some time, the source said.
The removal of the word “news” will, hopefully, help draw a sharper line between Google’s human-vetted Google News product, and its main search product.