A solution to fake news?
UK news publishers think they’ve found a solution for the rise of "fake news": investigate the "duopoly" of Google and Facebook.
The News Media Association (NMA), which represents the UK newspaper industry, called on British lawmakers to grill representatives from both companies and hold them to account for spreading and profiting from the phenomenon.
Fake news, argues the NMA, is easy to produce because its creators don’t have to spend money or time on proper fact-checking or reporting — unlike real journalism.
Also, it travels fast on social platforms as Facebook and Google’s algorithms don’t really care about the source’s quality, connecting users to news by "second-guessing what the user might like".
"Fake news companies find it easier to thrive online than real news companies because they do not have the overheads that professional news-gathering entails," the NMA said.
"These overheads are very difficult to cover in a digital news environment which rewards the distribution of content by internet platforms far more generously than it does those who create it."
"Fake news travels fast on social media, where algorithms connect users to news by second-guessing what the user might like, rather than assessing the quality of the source," it continued.
Another problem is that, due to its nature, online advertising often ends up inadvertently supporting fake news sites.
“Digital programmatic advertising follows these people with their own algorithms that track their ‘clicks’, ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ and place advertising wherever they browse," it said.
“In this way, the commercials of even the most reputable brands and government advertising end up appearing inadvertently on fake news sites and other inappropriate destinations.”
The NMA argues that funding fake news "causes real social harm by rewarding piracy and facilitating the spread of conspiracy theories."
In Britain, the phenomenon hasn’t taken hold with the same effect as in other countries, but “the conditions that enable a fake news industry to thrive could be gaining ground here."
Facebook has long argued that it’s not a traditional media company, but quietly rolled out a long-awaited solution to tackle the fake news problem.