Google and Facebook have announced on Monday, November 14, a policy update that target how some websites propagating phony or fake news content across the globe make money online: advertising.
Google plan to use its AdSense advertising network, while Facebook steps are limited to its ad policies, and do not target fake news sites shared by users on their news feeds. After the US Presidential election, Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc were faced with criticism over the role they played by allowing spread of false and misleading information that might have swayed voters to favour Republican candidate Donald Trump.
The Chief Executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg had been on the defense and insisted in recent days that the site had no role in influencing the election. In his blog on Saturday, Zuckerberg wrote:
“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.”
Google has long established laid down rules for its AdSense programme, barring ads from appearing next to pornography or violent content. A Google spokeswoman revealed that work on the policy update began before the election. According to a former Google employee who worked on ad systems, the company uses a combination of humans and artificial intelligence to review sites that apply to be a part of AdSense, and it continues to monitor sites after they are accepted.
Google’s artificial intelligence systems learn from sites that have been removed from the program, speeding the removal of similar sites.
From a business standpoint, the issue is highly sensitive for information tech, as many advertisers do not want their brands to be touted alongside dubious content. Hence both giant tech companies expresses their constant efforts to stay one step ahead of unscrupulous publishers.
However, Fil Menczer, a professor of informatics and computing at Indiana University who analysed the spread of misinformation on social media, said even though Google’s move with AdSense was a positive step, detecting fake news sites was not easy. He said:
“What if it is a site with some real information and some fake news? It requires specialized knowledge and having humans (do it) doesn’t scale.”