Fake news was recently made “word of the year 2016” by the Macquarie Dictionary and last week saw both the launch of Channel 4’s Fake News Week and a parliamentary inquiry into the phenomenon. Fake news is big news. But who is behind it all? And what’s it all about?
According to Search Engine Land , there are two types of fake news and they can be categorised by their objective: money or political influence.
Some fake news creators are cashing in by running ads containing fake news stories. These are used as “click bait” to link users to other sites. Google refers to these as “tabloid cloakers.” These advertisers run what look like links to news headlines but when the user clicks, an ad for a product pops up. The Guardian recently reported that both Google and Facebook had announced plans to go after the revenue of fake news sites by blocking the hoaxers from their ad networks. A Google spokesman announced:
“We will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property,”
Google suspended 1,300 accounts engaged in tabloid cloaking in 2016.
Arguably the most dangerous version of “fake news” is when the articles are assumed to be factual by the reader. This came to prevalence during the recent presidential election, with fake news now frequently being cited as the reason for Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.
One online fake news story that was taken up by thousands of online users was dubbed “pizzagate”. The story stemmed from an unsubstantiated rumour that a pizza restaurant in Washington was the base for a paedophile ring involving members of the Democratic Party. The story was a hit on Twitter and over a million messages have been sent using the term “pizzagate”. One man took the story so seriously that he travelled to the restaurant with a gun and opened fire.
In the build up to the French election, concerns have been raised that false information, or “fake news” may be promoted on Facebook or Google. In response to this, Facebook and Google are teaming up with French journalists from seventeen newsrooms to create a fact-checking service. The project is named the CrossCheck project.
Fake news may be on the rise, but with powerhouses like Facebook and Google now on the case, it should be increasingly easy to differentiate fact from fiction.