Fake news sites ads ban

The move fol­lows the prom­i­nent dis­play of a fake story on Google search re­sults, writes John Ribeiro

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Google plans to up­date its AdSense pro­gram poli­cies to pre­vent place­ment of its ads on sites dis­tribut­ing fake news. Face­book also re­cently an­nounced that it had up­dated the pol­icy for its Au­di­ence Net­work, which places ads on web­sites and mo­bile apps, to ex­plic­itly clar­ify that it ap­plies to fake news.

“In ac­cor­dance with the Au­di­ence Net­work Pol­icy, 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. The com­pany said its team will con­tinue to closely vet all prospec­tive pub­lish­ers and mon­i­tor ex­ist­ing ones to en­sure com­pli­ance.

False news sto­ries have be­come a sore point after the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions with crit­ics blam­ing in­ter­net com­pa­nies like Twit­ter and Face­book for hav­ing had an in­flu­ence on the out­come of the elec­tions as a re­sult of the fake con­tent. The con­tro­versy re­flects con­cerns about the grow­ing power of so­cial net­works to in­flu­ence peo­ple, as well as help peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate and or­gan­ise. Face­book pro­motes democ­racy by let­ting can­di­dates com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple, Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“We’ve been work­ing on an up­date to our pub­lisher poli­cies and will start pro­hibit­ing Google ads from be­ing placed on mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­tent, just as we dis­al­low mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion in our ads poli­cies,” Google in a state­ment. “Mov­ing for­ward, we will re­strict ad serv­ing on pages that mis­rep­re­sent, mis­state, or con­ceal in­for­ma­tion about the pub­lisher, the pub­lisher’s con­tent, or the pri­mary pur­pose of the web prop­erty.”

Google ev­i­dently ex­pects that the threat of a cut in rev­enue from ads will dis­suade sites from pub­lish­ing fake con­tent.

Zucker­berg has de­scribed as “crazy” the crit­i­cism that fake news on Face­book’s news feed had in­flu­enced the vote in favour of Trump. “Of all the con­tent on Face­book, more than 99 per­cent of what peo­ple see is au­then­tic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes,” Zucker­berg said in a post. The hoaxes are not lim­ited to one par­ti­san view, or even to pol­i­tics, he added.

Iden­ti­fy­ing the ‘truth’ is com­pli­cated, as while some hoaxes can be clearly iden­ti­fied, a greater amount of con­tent of­ten gets the ba­sic idea right but some de­tails wrong or omit­ted, or ex­presses a view that some peo­ple will dis­agree with and flag as in­cor­rect even when it is fac­tual, Zucker­berg wrote.

There are con­cerns that the mon­i­tor­ing of sites for fake news and the penal­ties could give in­ter­net com­pa­nies more power. “We have to be wary of Face­book and Google be­ing al­lowed to de­cide what’s ‘fake’ and what’s ‘true’ news. That only in­creases their power,” said Pranesh Prakash, pol­icy di­rec­tor at the Cen­tre for In­ter­net and So­ci­ety in Ban­ga­lore.

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