After the shitstorm of fake news in this past election cycle, Google and Facebook have stated that they want to clamp down on the websites that make up news stories and then make thousands of dollars in profits. Naturally, the owners of these media channels are crying about censorship and the First Amendment, which is about as dumb as the fake news that they spread.
First of all, a private-sector company like Facebook is not covered by the 1st Amendment, or the 2nd, or the rest of our Constitution. Our Bill of Rights dictates what our government can and cannot do, and doesn’t apply to Mark Zuckerberg or his company.
Facebook is a business that provides a free service to millions of Americans, which has been leveraged by legitimate and illegitimate media channels to make a lot of money. Without Facebook, they would have to resort to other platforms to drive traffic to their sites, so complaining about what the company may do with a free service which you are profiting from is pretty ridiculous in my mind.
Second, if Google AdSense or another online ad company decides it will no longer serve ads on a fake news website, that is their right as a business. I know that if I was a business paying them for advertising and found out a portion of my ad dollars were being spent displaying banners on Breitbart or the NRA’s website, I would be livid.
Fake news isn’t a recent phenomenon, but the era of social media has made it possible for false or exaggerated stories to go viral, and for the owners of these websites to make a lot of money in a short period of time. They aren’t journalists and these sites aren’t legitimate by any stretch of the imagination, but all it takes is an ad account and a Facebook page to start cashing in.
Whenever and wherever there is an opportunity to make easy money, clever people will always find a way to exploit those loopholes. During my tenure at Sprint, employees and fraudsters ripped off the company for tens of millions of dollars, and Sprint’s executives were unwilling to stop it because it made their subscriber base look robust, even as they hemorrhaged money from this fraud.
My guess is that Facebook and Google weren’t willing to clamp down on fake news sites because they were profiting from it as well. Some of these site owners paid Facebook to boost the appearance of their links in users’ feeds, and Google was also taking their share of profits from ads served on sites like LibertyNewsWriters.com or AmericanNews.com – even though the stories were completely false.
This Facebook trending story is 100% made up.
Nothing in it is true.
This post of it alone has 10k shares in the last six hours. pic.twitter.com/UpgNtMo3xZ
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) November 14, 2016
Ultimately, the only way to starve the beast is to refuse to read or share fake news stories. Even if Google completely cuts off these sites from their ad network, there are many others that will happily do business with the purveyors of clickbait, conspiracy stories, and completely false news.
As I have said before, if we as liberals want to claim that we are more informed and better detectors of bullshit than the people who read Fox News or Breitbart, then we had better start acting like it.