We’ve all heard of fake news, and many of us have quite possibly fallen victim to it. Although fake or sensationalised stories are nothing new, today’s digital media has certainly added to the power of fake news, and how quickly it can spread.
Internet giants such as Google and Facebook have again come under pressure to tackle ”fake news” in light of Kenya’s upcoming election, where an increasing number of fake news reports have begun circulating social media platforms in the country.
This is not the first time fake news has caused controversy. The 2016 US election was surrounded by fictitious news stories, with many claiming that nonsense stories may have influenced voters.
According to BuzzFeed News, during the run-up to the 2016 US election, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated much more engagement than genuine stories from major news websites such as New York Times and Huffington Post. The fake news story that generated the most engagement around the election featured Pope Francis, stating that ‘Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President’, with a huge 960,000 shares, reactions and comments.
This data is worrying and demonstrates the power of Facebook when it comes to fake news and allowing false stories to to go viral.
What is the social media giant doing to tackle this issue?
Facebook have taken steps to combat the problem by running a national print campaign in the UK to educate the public about how to identify fake news. The full page ads, featured in papers such as The Times and The Guardian, include a list of 10 tips to spotting fake news.
The campaign also appeared at the top of Facebook users’ news feeds, prompting users to learn more about spotting false news and how they can report it.
However, many argue that Facebook should be doing more, and that although the tips to spot fake news is a step in the right direction, it does nothing to address the problem itself.
Google pledges to combat fake news
Google has also come under fire after misleading information appeared on its search engine, for example, displaying websites in the results that state the Holocaust never occurred during World War II, and that Barack Obama was planning a coup.
Google have a huge reputation at stake and fake news certainly threatens the integrity of the search engine. Although, according to Google, only 0.25% of search results have been affected by fake news, this number was still enough for the search engine giant to take action.
Back in April, Google announced its attempt to combat the issue of ‘fake news’ appearing on its search engine by allowing users to report misleading content.
Google also promised to refine its algorithm in order to reduce the amount of ‘low quality’ content appearing in the results.
Ben Gomes, vice-president of engineering at Google briefly explained the changes to its algorithm, “We’ve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content… so that issues similar to the Holocaust denial results that we saw back in December are less likely to appear”.
Fake news: Digital advice for brands
The rise of fake news has lead there to be an increasing need for brands to be vigilant when it comes to where their ads are placed, the content they share and the effect that this can have on brand reputation.
Review all ad placements to be sure that your ads are not placed on websites that could have a reputation for sharing unreliable or false news, as associating your brand with an untrustworthy source can be damaging. If you find your ad is on a site that doesn’t align with your brand values, have it removed immediately.
Always be careful of what your brand shares on social media. Never post anything that you haven’t fact checked, as sharing ‘fake news’ with your audience could have a significant impact on your brands credibility.
Finally, make sure any content your brand publishes is completely factual and not misleading to your audience.