Google, Facebook Pull Plug on Fake News
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was in a fowl mood this weekend after flocks of millions of ducks invaded downtown Manhattan’s financial district. The incoming avians caused extensive damage to sky rises, but they responded by saying: “Just put it on our bill.”
Yes, we made up that story for a cheap pun, but also to illustrate how easy it is to rattle off some ridiculous news content that can draw clicks. When people cave and read the story, all those visits translate to ad revenues for the sites that host it. The company gets more money to hire more fake news writers, and the cycle continues.
Well, that is unless ad network platform owners like Google and Facebook have anything to say about it. Both sites face staunch criticism for being complicit in this fake news proliferation cycle since their ad platforms provide revenue to these sites. Trying to save face amidst this heat, they each vow to dry up the spring that helped fake news sites flourish. Ad partners featured on these platforms may suffer exposures, but many brand experts agree that the dissociation from shady sites could help rather than hurt.
Truth Is in the Eye of the IP Holder
Backlash against fake news has been consistent ever since many journalists noted that Facebook had been allowing stories with fake or deliberately misleading headlines to dominate the “Trending News” feature on their website. Since 66 percent of Facebook users state that they use the site regularly as a news source, and many fake news stories go more viral than real real ones, some even accuse these outlets of influencing the unexpected presidential election results earlier this November.
Indeed, many of the fake stories deliberately targeted demographics commonly associated with supporting presidential candidate Donald Trump, including one claiming that Pope Francis had endorsed him when he had in fact done no such thing.
Pinning election results on Facebook shares of viral news and clickbait is likely exaggerating while ignoring a host of other critical factors, but the point stands that people are visiting sites like Facebook and pages supported by Google’s DoubleClick ad network in order to get true information and are instead being whipped up into a frenzy with blatantly false stories.
Since Google and Facebook can benefit from these page visits almost as much as the content hosts, many feel that the companies should be held accountable for the sites they indirectly support. Some in the business world even see them taking responsibility for these fake news cash cows as sound brand management.
“Big brands have always cared greatly about ‘where’ their brand is placed,” observes Monik Sanghvi, chief strategy officer for the Organic marketing agency. “There are platforms of questionable quality where brands work to ensure they do not appear.”
Topher Burns, who is the group director of product innovation at Deep Focus, mirrored this opinion, saying that, “Facebook left this election cycle being seen as the place to find radicalization and propaganda, to fight with your friends and family,” while adding that they have to take control of this image “by taking a firm stance on quality.”
EverSpark Can Help You Sort Real Newsbreaks from the Bull
In the end, continued support of fake news farms may be far more damaging than any lost revenues given the push against deliberate deception. At the same time, sites are not always obvious in their aim to delude, presenting not-so-crystal-clear choices when trying to control which sites you will feature ads on.
The best way to mitigate the potential reputational risks while exposing your brand to as many prospects as possible is to partner with an experienced digital marketing and PR agency like EverSpark Interactive. We can guide your display ad strategy alongside social, content, SEO, PR and more to ensure that your brand not only benefits from digital marketing, but does so in a way that communicates your values loudly and clearly.
Contact us so we can get started working together today.