Native ad software publisher Sharethrough is calling on publishers to stop fake news from serving up in Google search and Facebook News streams, and asking advertisers to stop buying ad space on publisher sites that don't boycott the content.
Fantastical news stories similar to the ones published in grocery store tabloids have begun to infiltrate the Web, but the biggest issue with is that availability to the content spreads much wider and faster online compared with print. And for some strange reason, people reading this content online take it as truth more often than not.
"We are currently in an era where a new breed of bad actors are exploiting an oversaturated media environment by publishing blatantly false articles to make short-term profits by spreading sensationalized misinformation," Dan Greenberg, founder and CEO at Sharethrough, wrote in a blog post.
"Sadly, fake and deliberately misleading news can spread like wildfire on Facebook, faster than real news, because of the nature of confirmation bias and the fantastical nature of the headlines. This trend is hugely detrimental to society."
Greenberg, who serves as the co-chair of the IAB native ad committee and taught a class at Stanford on Facebook, also wrote that if an advertiser actively funds fake news sites by buying ad space, they should reconsider that strategy.
Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets, such as The New York Times, during the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, according to analysis from BuzzFeed News. The data shows that 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyper-partisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
Compare this with 19 major news Web sites that generated 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
While publishers need to take responsibility for what they serve on the Web, it's also important for readers to view the content with a critical eye and distinguish fact from fiction. It's ridiculous to believe that Facebook and Google can become the gatekeepers of truth, but as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg puts it, the industry must build stronger technology that detects and measures misinformation.
This means stronger algorithms to detect what people flag as false and misleading information.
Zuckerberg also wrote that Facebook is exploring the labeling of stories that have been flagged as false by third parties in the social site's community, similar to the way Google flags malicious sites.