Amid growing concern about the impact on politics and society of fake news distributed via social media, several of the major tech platforms are moving to combat the phenomenon — though it remains to be seen with what effect.
This week, Facebook and Google both unveiled changes intended to curtail fake news, as well as expose users to a broader range of information sources in Facebook’s case.
Facebook, which has emerged as an important news source for Americans over the last few years, announced it is revising its “Trending” feature to provide more context and deliver more content tailored to location. The Trending feature will now include publisher headlines for topics, giving users more information about the sources cited in stories.
Plus, the Trending feature will cease curating stories based directly on users’ personal interests. But instead, it will show the same list of trending articles to everyone in a discrete geographic area – hopefully countering the so-called “filter bubble.”
Perhaps most importantly, Facebook is also changing the way stories are selected for the Trending feature, so that stories covered by more news outlets receive more prominent positions in the feed, rather than simply on the basis of how shared they are.
This measure should help limit the circulation of fake news stories that often appeared on individual Web sites masquerading as news outlets — then attained viral distribution because of their sensational claims.
Previously, Facebook announced it is booting fake news publishers from its audience network, which allows advertisers to place ads on sites outside Facebook.
Separately, Google is pursuing a similar course, as detailed in an update published this week. Among other measures, Google noted that it banished 200 publishers from the AdSense ad network in the fourth quarter of last year, many for publishing fake news.
Some of the publishers were given the boot for attempting to deceive readers by using “.co” domains that resemble the Web sites of legitimate news organizations ending in “.com.”
Finally, Snapchat has mounted a push against fake news as well as “clickbait” in its “Discover” feature. The latter refers to headlines that link to unrelated content or ads, or otherwise fail to deliver on the content implied by the text and image.