After the results of the U.S. election shocked most of the world, many began to wonder whether social media influenced the outcome.
Facebook and Google both came under fire for allowing false news about the candidates to spread wildly on their platforms. Furthermore, filtering algorithms were blamed for narrowing the voter’s perspectives of the news based on their own preferences.
The question of whether social media platforms were responsible for the content they promote, especially since they’ve become the dominant format where users retrieve news, was eventually raised.
Both Google and Facebook revealed on Monday that they would cut revenue streams to fake news sites using their advertising network. Reuters reports that Google is currently working on this policy while Facebook explicitly updated its advertising policies to exclude fake news sites from its program.
This almost comes as a surprise, as Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has spent the last few days insisting that the social media giant had no influence on the results of the election.
The steps taken by Facebook have no impact on the stories shared by users in their news feeds, and only impact which outlets can participate in the company’s advertising program, the Facebook Audience Network.
Google on the other hand was criticized in the past few days when the top story regarding the final voter count claimed that Republican candidate Donald Trump had won the popular vote, whereas Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of almost two percent. Google’s advertising revenue platform,
AdSense, allows customers to place text ads on millions of websites. A report in BuzzFeed last month reportedly showed that small Macedonian publishers are creating fake news websites — which Reuters claims largely discredit Hillary Clinton — which were widely shared on Facebook. Google reportedly uses a combination of humans and artificial intelligence to review applications from websites vying to participate in AdSense.
Since then, several stories about Facebook and Google’s content responsibilities have been published.
Some of these include the rumour that Facebook failed to release a tool that identifies fake news and hoaxes as well as the report that Facebook employees are forming a “secret task force” to address the issue of false news.
This isn’t the first time Facebook’s news feed has been put under the microscope. This past summer, reports surfaced of Facebook’s newsfeed suppressing news from conservative outlets, while promoting left leaning outlets.
As social media becomes the primary way its users consume news, its responsibility to consumers is continually called into question.