The increasing presence of fake news and other spurious content is causing problems for social networks. Conspiracy theories seem tailor-made as viral content for social, and networks are struggling to regulate which ads appear next to which content. Fake news is hurting the ad industry, and it’s hurting social networks.
Misleading or false information is nothing new on the internet. Conspiracy theories, misidentified satire or poorly contextualized posts have become viral hits, and the constant context-stripping and sharing of these posts has blurred the lines between genuine information and falsehood. However, the phenomenon of fake news is newer and not so easily debunked, according to Wired.
Contributor Henri Gendreau writes:
What happens to factuality itself as algorithms replace humans, Facebook supplants traditional media and the president declares war on the press. That perfect storm has made fake news as unstuck from fact—and as unstoppable—as any viral hoax. Watching the meaning of fake news evolve shows just how easily even facts about facts can slip away.
Social networks are working quickly to try to counteract the credibility problems created by fake news. Snapchat has updated its standards in an effort to weed out clickbait and links to known purveyors of fake news, and Facebook has started removing certain sites from its search listings.
It’s not just Facebook and Snapchat, though; Google’s ad network has also been the target of criticism for its continued appearances on controversial sites. However, as Gendreau notes, most of these appearances are due to algorithmic targeting, which begs the question: How responsible are networks for ad targeting? Brands aren’t waiting around to engage in the discussion; more than 1,200 advertisers pulled their ads from appearing on Breitbart.com, a noted far-right publication.
The presence of fake news on social media is undermining the credibility of the most trusted platforms and causing upheaval in the ad space. It seems that major changes in automated marketing are coming, and it’s possible that social networks could resort to old-fashioned editorial standards when it comes to content on their networks.