Internet giants have been scrambling to reconfigure their online products in the past few months, amid worries about the influence of fake “news” and misinformation on the 2016 presidential election.
Most recently, Google’s Sustainable Ads division revealed that it had kicked 200 publishers off of its AdSense network in November and December 2016 for “misrepresenting content to users, including news organizations,” according to a blog post yesterday.
On the same day, Facebook announced new updates to its Trending product, the feature that shows users popular topics being discussed on the platform. Instead of displaying trending topics catered to individual users’ interests, the Trending feed will now show the same list of topics to all users in the same geographic region in order to avoid siloing users into arenas where they don’t hear about news deemed irrelevant to them.
Other changes include more immediately visible source names and an improved algorithm for determining the trending topics themselves — one that skews less toward one singular popular source and more toward a group of articles with a similar subject matter.
These changes are the latest in a series that Facebook has made in the past few months, but this marks Google’s first actual update since the announcement last fall of a new AdSense “misrepresentative content policy” to discourage websites profiting off of misinformation.
The sites are some of the most widely used in the country, meaning that the new changes have the potential to make a massive impact on our digital environment. Will this mark a widespread pledge of commitment to factual information?
Twitter would be the next on the list if this were to catch on. The platform, as all unmoderated platforms, is a bastion of hoaxes and wild conjecture. Fake news here manifests in the form of spam bots, parody accounts taken at face value, the proliferation of photos that are old or altered, liars who call themselves “trolls,” and users who don’t cite (or even respect the idea of) credible sources. The company could not be reached for comment at the time of this posting, but if it did want to join the movement, it could look to The Washington Post’s RealDonaldContext chrome extension for a start.