Google and Facebook took steps on November 14 to ban “fake news” content publishers from generating a cut of advertising revenues through Google AdSense and Facebook Audience Network, a move that “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites.”
Breitbart News reported shortly after the November 8 election that the left blamed Donald Trump’s victory on Facebook’s unwillingness to stop the proliferation of “fake news” that spread “blatantly inaccurate information” about Hillary Clinton regarding Benghazi, emails and the probability of her being indicted by the FBI.
A chorus of established mainstream media outlets has been demanding Facebook and Google change their algorithms so that populist candidates, like Donald Trump, cannot have a “cheap megaphone” to use “fake news” convert new people into followers.
BuzzFeed claimed its investigation of fake news found 38 percent of posts shared from three large right-wing politics pages on Facebook included “false or misleading information,” while three large left-wing pages did so less than 20 percent of the time. Buzzfeed added that it found 140 fake news sites from Macedonia that supported Trump.
According to a new report from Gizmodo, Facebook took “steps to suppress fake news earlier this year,” despite knowing it would have “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds.”
But Facebook backed-off the move after Breitbart News reported in May that former Facebook contractors said they had “routinely suppressed conservative-oriented news articles from the trending news section.” The contractors specifically highlighted preventing “organically trending” posts on Facebook’s highly-influential News Feed section from conservatives reporting about Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and the huge 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which attracted 30,000 attendees.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first denied any knowledge of “bias” against conservatives. But he was forced to admit some former Facebook employees that curated content might “unintentionally” have been biased against conservatives, after the revelations sparked a Senate Commerce Committee probe of News Feed.
To counter progressive workforce “biases,” Facebook took the extraordinary step of firing all News Feed curators and agreeing to stop allowing the liberal New York Times, CNN, NBC News, Washington Post and BuzzFeed to dominate News Feed postings.
Google and Facebook have had strict policies, using a combination of algorithms and human moderation, to decide whether a site is eligible to use its advertising service. But that tactic has mostly been used to deny pornographic websites from collecting click advertising dollars.
But with the visibility of the election over, Google has stated that it has updated its AdSense “policy” to ban sites that “misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information.” Websites that do not comply with this rule will be banned from using Google AdSense.
Facebook acknowledged that it has also updated policies to prevent fake news sites from using the company’s Audience Network ad inventories.