After Brexit and the US election taking over our social media feeds chances are you’ve seen quite a bit of fake news over the past 6 months or so. This content is created to shock, create debate and fool people into believing the ridiculous hyperbole spewed out across the internet on a daily basis.
While sitting and watching people argue on Facebook over false news (and eating virtual popcorn) can be quite fun, it should be taken seriously (I’m not talking about the satirical content on The Daily Mash and The Onion – that is fun). Content created with the sole intention of provoking a violent reaction and influencing our opinions (and generate revenue from ads) is perhaps more likely to spread than articles from credible sources because of the click-bait headlines and elaborate statements.
This fake news often meets the magic criteria that constitutes viral content and subsequently spreads across many platforms on social media. The social media population is vast and some of the things we see on it have an impact- I am guilty of hopping from Instagram to Twitter, then to Facebook and back again. I’d hate to know how much I spend on it during the average week.
Some experts think that the viral nature of fake news might even influence the way we form our opinions and the way we vote, especially as it has (and still can) appear in search engine results pages too.
But what is Google doing about fake news?
According to Search Engine Land, “fact checking and preventing fake news from appearing in search results will remain a big priority for search engines in 2017.” All that has gone on (and is going on) in politics at the moment has highlighted the importance of social networks and search engines working towards eliminating fake content and creating transparency online.
At the moment, to get content indexed on Google News search engine results pages, publishers must meet a set of guidelines and apply for a “manual review”. But fake content can still appear in organic listings or “in the news” section (not a news specific search). In addition, Facebook and Google have stopped “fake news sites from utilising their ad networks.” This is an important step forward as some fake news authors would have made a lot of cash on popular stories from ad revenue.
As well as the above Google is funding fact checking projects and is working on signalling fact-checked content.
But as Search Engine Land puts it quite profoundly “for Google to appear objective in their representation of truth, they need to avoid getting involved in defining it.” And I agree with this – while Google has the power to work towards eliminating fake content, continuing to involve third party organisations (such as fact checking companies) is the way forward.
Written by Jade Larkin, SEO Manager at ExtraMile Communications