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April 7, 2017, 9:30 a.m.
Audience & Social

What is the right amount of money to throw at the fake news problem?

Plus: Some fake sites are still sneaking onto big ad networks, Facebook pushed news literacy, and Germany gets serious about social networks removing content.

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

Google puts more fact-checking into News and Search: The company is expanding a program it started last year for the U.S. and U.K. to the rest of the world.

This information won’t be available for every search result, and there may be search result pages where different publishers checked the same claim and reached different conclusions. These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgments. Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree. As we make fact checks more visible in Search results, we believe people will have an easier time reviewing and assessing these fact checks, and making their own informed opinions.

Publishers that want their content included in this feature need to do this or use this widget. Google says “only publishers that are algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information will qualify for inclusion.” (Ooh, I’d like to see that list of sources deemed authoritative.)

Germany moves to stop fake news with a new law: The Bundestag is likely to approve a new bill that would hold social media companies responsible when their users spread fake news, hate speech, and child pornography. “The measure would compel large outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to rapidly [in as little as 24 hours] remove fake news that incites hate, as well as other ‘criminal’ content, or face fines as high as 50 million euros (USD $53 million),” Anthony Faiola and Stephanie Kirchner report for The Washington Post. German law already requires sites to remove illegal content once they’re aware of it; the fines are meant to get them to comply. “Verbal radicalization is often the first step toward physical violence,” justice minister Heiko Maas told German media Wednesday, as reported by EUobserver’s Andrew Rettman and Aleksandra Eriksson. Maas also called for Europe-wide solutions to the problem.

Critics say the bill would limit free speech, and on Wednesday, Andrus Ansip, European Commission VP for the digital single market, told European Parliament (echoing remarks he’d made previously), “We have to believe in the common sense of our people. Fake news is bad, but a Ministry of Truth is even worse…We need to address the spread of fake news by improving media literacy and critical thinking.” At least in the U.S., the audience for fact checks has become somewhat partisan; research here last year found that Democrats view fact-checking more favorably than Republicans. “At a time of no trust in the media, why would the voter trust the [fact-checker] over the politician he or she supported?” Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, asked recently at a fact-checking summit in D.C.

Facebook: “No, no, don’t worry, we’ve got this.” An “educational tool for spotting fake news” will appear at the top of users’ News Feeds in 14 countries, Facebook announced Thursday. If you click on it, it links to “more information and resources in the Facebook Help Center, including tips on how to spot false news, such as checking the URL of the site, investigating the source and looking for other reports on the topic.” It was developed in partnership with First Draft. These are the tips:

Facebook also “plans to pay fact-checkers to monitor news on its platforms in response to sustained criticism that it has not been doing enough to crack down on fake stories,” reports Madhumita Murgia for the Financial Times.

“It’s not porn, it’s not hate or guns”: “More than 60 websites publishing fake news are earning revenue from advertising networks and most of them are working with major networks such as Revcontent, Google AdSense, and Content.ad,” BuzzFeed News’ Craig Silverman, Jeremy Singer-Vine, and Lam Thuy Vo report. Continuing with the whole “it’s not fake news, it’s satire” claim, Google told BuzzFeed that some sites “continue to show AdSense ads because they include disclosures that their content is satirical and they don’t fit the company’s definition of misrepresentative or deceptive content,” while Taboola CEO Adam Singolda said, “While there are different definitions of what ‘fake news’ is, we assume it to include a deliberate intent to deceive and cause harm to consumers. The stated goal of these sites that you sent us is to entertain through parody, we believe.” There is a lot of satire out there!

BuzzFeed conducted part of its analysis with the coauthors of the new Field Guide to Fake News; those authors summarized their work for us here. They stress that fact-checking is not enough to combat fake news: “‘Thicker’ accounts of how fake news circulates may also suggest the limits of approaches to fake news that predominantly focus on fact-checking, debunking, and flagging fake news items — which might imply that fake news thrives because of a deficit of factual information, downplaying its affective resonance or emotional appeal.”

$100 million to promote “global trust.” eBay founder/billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s philanthropy, the Omidyar Network, announced it’s committing $100 million over three years to support investigative journalism and fight fake news. The first organizations to get funding: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which was behind the exposure of the Panama Papers; the Latin American Alliance for Civic Technology; and the Anti-Defamation League, which will use the money to build “a state-of-the-art command center in Silicon Valley to combat the growing threat posed by hate online.”

Also in funding news this week: The News Integrity Initiative, a $14 million project “to advance news literacy, to increase trust in journalism around the world, and to better inform the public conversation,” funded by Facebook and Craig Newmark, among others, and run out of CUNY.

Illustration from L.M. Glackens’ The Yellow Press (1910) via The Public Domain Review.

POSTED     April 7, 2017, 9:30 a.m.
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