The two tech giants are going to pursue fake news websites and kick the hoaxers off their ad networks. The move intends to prevent misleading the public from being profitable.
Google was first to announce a policy update that would restrict its adverts from being placed on fake news websites. However, it is unclear whether the search giant is able to correctly identify such websites. For example, a few days ago, Google’s top news link for “final election results” led to a fabricated story claiming that Trump had won the popular vote by 700,000 votes, while in reality Clinton is currently in the lead by the same margin.
Facebook followed Google’s example and updated its wording in the policies for its own advertising platform, which already bans adverts in websites displaying “misleading or illegal” content. Now the company is going to make clear that those terms also apply to fake news sites. Facebook promised to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance, after being accused of swinging the election in Trump’s favor thanks to its algorithm promoting fake news to millions of users. Media reports claimed that over 100 pro-Trump fake news websites were run from a Balkan city.
Obviously, cutting off the revenue to such websites by limiting their profits from advertising may limit their proliferation. However, the social network in particular faces a more fundamental problem: when Facebook users engage more with fake news than real ones, its algorithm will promote the fake news. Even if the fake news sites don’t profit from advertising, they may have other revenue sources, which may provide enough motivation.