Face­book, Google to take fake news se­ri­ously

Af­ter elec­tion crit­i­cism, com­pa­nies will cut ad cash flow to bo­gus sites

USA TODAY International Edition - - MONEY - Jon Swartz, Jes­sica Guynn and El­iz­a­beth Weise @ jswartz, @ jguynn, @ eweise USA TO­DAY

Face­book and Google are get­ting real about fake news sites.

Fol­low­ing an avalanche of crit­i­cism about how each com­pany in­ad­ver­tently high­lights fab­ri­cated head­lines and con­tent, the com­pa­nies say they are pulling ads on such sites.

The ac­tions are in­tended to sti- fle the lifeblood of click- bait sites that flour­ished dur­ing the cam­paign — ad­ver­tise­ments.

Google said it 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. Its get- tough stance was un­der­scored by CEO Sun­dar Pichai, who Tues­day told the BBC’s Ka­mal Ahmed that fake news might have swung enough votes to­ward Pres­i­dent- elect Don­ald Trump to in­flu­ence the elec­tion.

“It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber this was a very close elec­tion and so, just for me, look­ing at it sci­en­tif­i­cally, one in 100 vot­ers vot­ing one way or the other swings the

“From our per­spec­tive, there should just be no sit­u­a­tion where fake news gets dis­trib­uted, so we are all for do­ing bet­ter here.” Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai

elec­tion ei­ther way,” Pichai said. “From our per­spec­tive, there should just be no sit­u­a­tion where fake news gets dis­trib­uted, so we are all for do­ing bet­ter here.”

Face­book said it was up­dat­ing its Au­di­ence Net­work Pol­icy, which pro­hibits dis­play ads in apps or sites con­tain­ing con­tent that is il­le­gal, mis­lead­ing or de­cep­tive, in­clud­ing fake news. “While im­plied, we have up­dated the pol­icy to ex­plic­itly clar­ify that this ap­plies to fake news,” Face­book said in a state­ment.

So­cial me­dia and other types of techy that broadly dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion to bil­lions of peo­ple world­wide have be­come the fo­cus of a na­tional de­bate on their cul­pa­bil­ity in am­pli­fy­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion dur­ing the elec­tion.

Face­book has re­ceived the most crit­i­cism for sur­fac­ing fake news in users’ news­feeds that some say tilted the elec­tion in fa­vor of Trump — an as­ser­tion CEO Mark Zucker­berg has dis­missed. He said 99% of news on the so­cial net­work is “au­then­tic” and vowed to weed out fake news.

Lib­eral ad­vo­cacy group Me­dia Mat­ters for Amer­ica on Tues­day launched a pe­ti­tion for Zucker­berg and Face­book to “ac­knowl­edge the prob­lem of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of fake news on Face­book” and fix it.

“What Zucker­berg has es­sen­tially done is say we have no re­spon­si­bil­ity,” says Drew Mar­golin, a pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion at Cor­nell Univer­sity. “Face­book did not choose to have re­spon­si­bil­ity, but they are go­ing to have to de­fine a gen­eral stan­dard of pol­icy around what can be shared, how it is fil­tered and of­fer some form of al­go­rith­mic trans­parency.

“With 1.8 bil­lion mem­bers, ( Face­book) can’t hide from the in­flu­ence it has,” Mar­golin says.

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