Facebook Leverages Advertising to Stop the Spread of Fake News

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Just like much of the content on the internet, fake news is funded largely by advertising.  Therefore, this week Facebook announced that pages that share “fake news,” or false stories masquerading as truth, will no longer be allowed to advertise on its platform.  The goal is straightforward:  to punish pages that link to stories that are marked as “false” by third-party fact-checkers from making money. 


Going forward, if a page repeatedly shares stories that are marked as false, they will no longer be able to buy ads on Facebook.  They might only be able to start buying ads again after demonstrating a commitment to sharing truthful news stories. By implementing this step, Facebook hopes it can “disrupt the economic incentives to create false news, build new products to curb the spread of false news, and help people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.”  


This anti-advertising campaign by Facebook is the latest many steps the company has taken since the rise of fake news.  Facebook has also enabled users to flag fake news posts.  These flagged posts are then reviewed by third-party fact-checkers and marked as such, and it recently implemented artificial intelligence (AI) tools in order to sort through and flag fake news posts faster and more efficiently than humans could.


Fake news is a serious problem that many online platforms aside from Facebook are thinking about.  AI and flagging tools are being used by other companies, too.  Earlier this year, Google started flagging fake news that appeared in its search results and introduced AI tools to improve search results.  Thomson Reuters implemented an AI tool that allows journalists to sift through breaking news for real news stories.  These methods are continuously being improved upon to reduce the influence of fake news.


The full scope of fake news’ negative influence is still being investigated, yet it is still a cause for concern.  Decision-makers and average citizens alike need to have accurate information in order to make the best choices that can affect not only themselves, but also countless others.  As hostile countries and actors continue to use fake news to conduct influence and misinformation campaigns, companies like Facebook have stepped in to promote the credibility of news online.  Eliminating advertising mechanisms for fake news platforms is a fine next step.

Diane Diane Pinto is the Public Policy Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the Policy team on Twitter @SIIAPolicy.