Google, Facebook To Fight Fake “News” Sites By Blocking Them From Ad Money

Image courtesy of Adrian Scottow

Google and Facebook are, hands down, the two most common ways for basically everyone to find information: either you’re searching for links on one, or browsing your news feed on the other. They’re also the two biggest advertising companies in the world, which gives them some leverage to feed or starve some content. And when it comes to totally bogus news, both are now going to take the “starve” approach.

We’ve all seen them; some of us may even have shared them. There’s a BLARING HEADLINE that confirms either your deepest hopes or worst fears — Politician A Eats Kittens! Politician B Downs Puppies! — and it’s making the rounds all over Facebook despite coming from a site with a URL like

They’re everywhere. John Oliver took them to task in his last Last Week Tonight episode of the year, and he’s far from alone. The New York Times, Washington Post, and others have all repeatedly questioned the prominence of fake news across Facebook and Google, and the effect that so much pure crap may be having on the public.

So in the wake of a clearly controversial election, where fake news (yes, on both sides) has been widespread, Google and Facebook are now going to try to tackle the problem, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Google’s going to ban Google ads from being placed on websites that “misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose” of the site, the WSJ says.

AdSense is the key tool here. Google has had sites that “misrepresent what they market” on the no-no list for AdSense for ages, along with sites that promote hate speech, violent content, or pornography. Fake news sites are now on the list as well, although Google hasn’t made clear how, exactly, it will prevent AdSense from being used on those pages.

Facebook is also going to cut off ad revenue to bogus sites. It already prohibits “misleading, illegal or deceptive sites” from using the Facebook Audience Network to advertise, and now, a spokesperson told the WSJ, it’s explicitly adding fake news to that list.

This change won’t do anything about how frequently fake news gets bumped up in your News Feed, though; Facebook’s not announcing any changes to the algorithms that control what gets shown when, and if a half-dozen of your friends and family are all talking about a fake thing, well, you’ll still see it.

It’s the same for Google: the search algorithms “favors webpages that are well-designed and are linked to by other established sites,” as the WSJ puts it, which tends to promote reputable sites and drop disreputable ones out of the top tier of results.

Google and Facebook Take Aim at Fake-News Sites [Wall Street Journal]

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