Facebook has made some efforts, however ineffective, to stop the plague of fake news on their platform. Now Google is trying to stem the tide of false information online, along with their past attempts to shut down fake news sites by cutting off ad revenue to those sources.
Fake news was a problem before the 2016 election cycle here in the United States, but it went nuclear leading up to the presidential election which saw Donald Trump pull off a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton. Clickbait purveyors infested Facebook groups and used a variety of SEO techniques to outperform legitimate news sources like the New York Times on traffic to their stories.
Facebook’s attempts have failed miserably. Nearly every Facebook group I belong to, not just the political ones, are cluttered with spam ranging from sketchy porn links, to false and exaggerated “news” stories by sites like Occupy Democrats, Resistance Report and a wide range of links from overseas domains based in Macedonia or elsewhere.
Google is trying to stop the flood of fake news, and they’re instituting some new rules, but it just isn’t enough.
“Publishers will need to conform to several rules to have their articles displayed with the fact-check label. Google will only display the label for publishers that have used the Schema.org ClaimReview markup on each page where they have checked the facts of a public statement, or if they use the Share the Facts widget.
Also, it will only include publishers that are “algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information”, while the content must adhere to Google’s New Publisher fact-checking criteria.” (ZDNet)
The problem is that no matter who fact-checks stories, and no matter how hard Google or Facebook cracks down on one domain, another one will pop up to take its place. It only takes a credit card, knowledge of how to create a website, and a few purchased Facebook profiles to drive traffic to a website – even if Google or Facebook were to completely block a domain.
A couple of popular but flawed arguments are that the mainstream media isn’t reporting on stories that matter, or that these domains are providing information that you can’t get elsewhere. In the case of websites like Occupy Democrats, they are taking videos from real news sources, slapping their logos all over them, and then pretending that they created the content.
Some other sites like Liberal America have taken stories from Democracy Now! and republished them almost word-for-word, with more sensationalised titles and altered facts. Others like Palmer Report publish speculation as news, whether it turns out to be true or not, while constantly begging for donations.
Stopping fake news from either the left or the right cannot be stopped by Google, Facebook, or Reddit. It is on us to recognize legitimate sources, and learn to fact-check, because Politifact and Snopes are having a hard time keeping up.
Fake news websites depend on people to share their stories and click on their ads. This is what keeps them in business and allows them to keep exploiting the partisan divide. Often, conservative sites pose as liberal news sources, and the far-left continues to buy into conspiracy stories from Infowars, Natural News, or Russian-backed propaganda sources like RT or Zerohedge.
If we refuse to buy into this scam, the problem will solve itself, but only if we commit ourselves to skepticism instead of confirmation bias.