“Overseas Fake News Publishers Use Facebook’s Instant Articles To Bring In More Cash”
…Most fake news Instant Articles included ads from Facebook’s advertising network.
While in today’s world, both digital and social, the term “fake news” has become, as we’ve discussed, highly politicized and thus incredibly loaded, false news still remains a national issue. Jane Lytvynenko’s article addresses what appears to be another layer of the issue: overseas fake news sites, and not only the revenue from these posts, but who is actually profiting. The timely article, posted on 2/7, is speaking specifically of Facebook’s “Instant Articles” feature, a way for online articles and other content to be directly integrated and seamlessly viewed within the Facebook mobile app. The issue at hand, however, is that Facebook, which has already found itself under fire for its perpetuation of the problem, is actually earning revenue from these false stories when the fake news sites use Facebook’s Audience Network, Facebook’s ad network, within their articles. When websites utilize Audience Network for ad placement, Facebook takes a percentage of this revenue. What is also interesting to note is that the design of the Instant Articles feature actually has the effect of concealing important information about a news source that could actually be critical in evaluating the content and validity, namely the original URL of the source. Additionally, once a user loads an article through Instant Article, the reader is automatically prompted to read more stories from the same publisher, meaning that once even a single fake news articles slip through the cracks and onto the platform, the Instant Articles feature actively works to spread more false stories.
Facebook has explained their strict guidelines for both articles and ads that utilize this platform, yet the articles that were identified by BuzzFeed News and sent to Facebook had clearly circumvented these rules—and there was no comment on how they were able to do so. What is also interesting, and jarring, to note is that the legitimate publishers that Facebook had joined forces with to initially release the feature are actually backing out, not only creating more room for fake news publishers to find their way in but, in my opinion, could potentially perpetuate the issue, seeing as how there is a monetary incentive for Facebook to allow publishers to use the platform.
I found Lytvynenko’s article to be particularly thought-provoking because it explores an issue that is actually multi-faceted. While the issue is digital in nature, it made me consider deeper questions of the connections between digital media and corporate responsibility. While Facebook has said it has guidelines in place to prevent false news platforms from gaining access to its Instant Articles feature, the guidelines have clearly not been doing their job. While Facebook is a massive global corporation, the Facebook platform should be viewed as a world power. As such, I feel that they have a corporate responsibility to prevent this spreading of false information. It seems to me that because Facebook has a chance to profit off of the utilization of its own features, there could be a decreased incentive to attack the issue with full force, and that it might be tempting to turn a blind eye to the problem. While I’m in no way trying to accuse Facebook, it seems that they could be putting more steps in place and that if the company itself had less invested, literally, in the issue, it would be able to analyze it from more of a bird’s eye view rather than from its current position within it.
Tow Center Graphic, Courtesy of BuzzFeed News