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fake-news

Facebook and Google will no longer display ads on sites identified as holding false information. Source: Google Images.

In a time when the bulk of our news information comes from Google and social media, it’s often tough to know which sources can be trusted, and which are spreading false news. Recently, Facebook and Google have taken action to change this. In order to improve the quality of information posted on their platforms, these tech sites have chosen not to display ads on websites and apps that post information that is illegal, misleading, or deceptive, according to a recent Advertising Age article.

While this will not completely rid the platforms of false information, these steps may certainly decrease it. This move towards improving the quality and accuracy of information will primarily work by significantly reducing advertising dollars for deceptive sites. If anyone has the power to do this, it’s Facebook and Google. Based on the size of their audiences and their targeting options, Facebook and Google are some of the most effective and widely used digital advertising platforms. According to the Advertising Age article, Google’s AdSense for publishers is the most popular web display ad sales platform in the industry, and the primary source of revenue for online publications.

This step towards improving the quality and credibility of information on these popular platforms is especially significant today, as we emerge from a tumultuous political campaign season. During the 2016 election campaign season, false information circulated freely on these platforms perhaps more than ever before, and is thought to have even affected the election’s outcome. Francesco Marconi of the Associated Press sees this election as an “ ‘inflection-point’ or ‘wake-up call’ for the importance of factual information”, according to an adweek article.

fake-news-election

Fake news stories had a large presence on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. Source: techcrunch.com

These changes do not only signal good news for users of the platforms and consumers of information, but also for the brands that advertise and have a presence on Facebook and Google. By minimizing the presence of deceitful sites on these platforms, the quality of Facebook and Google is likely to improve in the eyes of big brands. As brands are increasingly careful to place themselves on reputable platforms and away from controversial content, this shift away from such deceitful content may attract brands more and benefit the platforms further. Scott Linzer, vice president of owned media at iCrossing, says brands expect advertisers and tech companies to identify where there is false content – highlighting the importance of filtering false information out of the popular media platforms.

Overall, the craving for factual information is increasing for both consumers and brands. In fact, Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications and media at Merrimack College, has created a list of hundreds of questionable and fake news websites, according to the adweek article. Others have joined her efforts in identifying such sites, in order to facilitate the move away from the recent influx of fake news on popular digital platforms.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you think the accuracy of information available on these platforms should in fact be verified? Why or why not?
  • What other platforms might consider making similar changes, and should they make these changes?
  • Do you think brands will increase their presence on these platforms if the presence of ‘fake news’ is limited?