It’s a conundrum. Two of the most powerful purveyors of information on the Internet, and therefore the world, are also responsible for spreading the sensational, the ludicrous and sometimes dangerous fake news that’s become a cultural plague.
How can the problem be solve? The powers teaming up to stop fake news in its tracks—which seems more theoretical than realistic—could alleviate the misuse of the platforms and search engines. However, is it really a positive development to have the most powerful tech companies also acting as gatekeepers of the spread of information?
Quartz reports Google executives pondered their potential role in thwarting the spread of false information through the company’s Chrome browser last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos. They posit adding some sort of extension to the browser that could possibly alert Facebook and Twitter users to a piece of fake news before it’s shared on the platforms.
A Google spokeswoman was quick to tell Quartz the company isn’t working on anything like this at the moment.
BuzzFeed reports many trusted publishers are abandoning Facebook’s Instant Articles option, but fake news outlets are cashing in. In an investigation into Facebook Instant Articles and their voracity, BuzzFeed “found 29 Facebook pages and associated websites that are using Instant Articles to help their completely false stories load faster on Facebook.”
Beyond that, 24 or more of those pages are utilizing the Facebook Audience Network, which allows the social-media company to earn a share in the revenue earned by the dubious outlets as their news is consumed on the platform.
BuzzFeed alerted Facebook about the articles—which were promptly removed. But when asked how the articles slipped by, the social media giant would not comment.
According to the company, publishers are required to submit 10 articles for manual review, and the content must reflect community standards before being approved. Facebook also claims to forbid fake news publishers from using the service. The advertising protocol is even stricter.
With egregious mistakes happening even with assumed comprehensive approval processes in place, Facebook is caught in a battle it may ultimately lose. The nearly weekly tweaks to timeline rubrics and changes to fact checking protocol don’t scream confidence, either.
Google’s potential move to help stop the spread of fake news online is a positive, but it must begin with the public. Unfortunately, users live in a culture that favors the sensational over the accurate. Rather than deeply examine information, we’re willing to turn to tech giants to create a browser extension or approval committee, putting total trust in the entities that are partially responsible for the current crisis.