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How your business might be impacted by fake news

How your business might be impacted by fake news

By Sarah Mueller on December 7, 2016 in Digital Marketing

The proliferation of fake news online received spotlight attention during the recent election. Real news outlets are reporting that the election may have been impacted by fake news reports that seemed to be all over Facebook and Google - and as a result these online giants are under new scrutiny as people ask how this happened.

Facebook

Although Mark Zukerberg has denied the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election, calling it a “pretty crazy idea,” there is no denying that the social network is an influential source of news for many Americans. According to a recent report by Pew Research Center, over 40 percent of American adults get news on Facebook. Now, the news published on Facebook is influenced by what your friends are sharing as well as the trending topics that Facebook features on the site. Trending topics are curated by an algorithm that learns from your behaviors including what you view and click on.

Fake news stories, like the one claiming Pope Francis endorsed president-elect Donald Trump, have spread like wildfire on social media sites, mostly due to the shock value of these stories. In fact, an analysis of these fake stories by BuzzFeed News showed that these fake election news stories out-performed the top real stories.

It’s not the first time Facebook has been under fire for this issue, either. Earlier this year, Facebook received flack when reports alleged their trending topics list suppressed stories from conservative outlets. At that time, Facebook published a statement saying it has "rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality."

Google

Facebook isn’t the only online outlet to be hard-hit by these fake news stories. Google has been receiving criticism for publishing fabricated stories in their top news section. The most well-known of these stories claimed a false final election count. Big deal, since many Americans turn to Google as a consolidated source of news and information.

Business Insider recently reported that Google announced the rebranding of its “In The News” section in the coming weeks. According to this article, Google will replace the section with a carousel of “Top Stories” hoping that removing the word “news” will help them out from under the microscope. According to an article by Marketing Land, Google curators used to examine these listings, but removed those restrictions in 2014, possibly contributing to the fake news problem.

Why is fake news big business?

Fake news is born out of a desire to produce clicks to sites in an attempt to generate ad revenue, and perpetrated by an American desire to share a shocking story. False information on the internet is nothing new - otherwise Snopes wouldn’t be a thing and my grandma wouldn’t have sent me so many chain emails claiming that if I didn’t forward to 20 of my closest friends a baby kitten would die. So what makes this different? The recent success of fake news is a result of more people turning to online and social sites as a news source, combined with more unreliable websites trying to get in on “selling content.”

How can I spot fake news?

Most unreliable websites publishing fake news have some pretty tell-tale signs. Be sure to check the publish date, the sources, and the URL. If a scammer is spoofing a real site, they may have copied the URL of a real news site and added an extra suffix on the end. If you see a URL ending in something like ".com.co" then take a closer look.

What are Facebook and Google doing now to combat fake news?

Both companies have announced they will be hitting fake news where it hurts most - ad revenue. Facebook announced it will no longer allow Facebook-powered ads on fake news websites and Google similarly will not permit fake news sites to use its AdSense placement network. Both companies are also working on changes to their algorithms to try and weed out fake stories in an effort to protect their respective brands and credibility.

However, Marc Zukerberg wrote that "Identifying the 'truth' is complicated,"  he wants to avoid becoming an “arbiter of truth.” It’s true that placing all of the burden of identifying these stories in the court of these large companies gives them permission to further control and disseminate information.

How does this fake news stuff impact my business?

The issue of fake news has implications much deeper than identifying which candidate won the popular vote.

  • Avoid disseminating false or misleading information. Never post anything on your business (or personal) page that you haven’t fact-checked. Sharing fake news can impact your credibility in a very real way.
  • Keep an eye on changes and think of how they may impact your online strategy. Follow our SEO News post for new information on changing algorithms and how they impact your strategy.
  • Finally - remember that Spinutech is your trusted digital partner - your wingman when navigating the digital world and building your online “street smarts.” Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask us questions.

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