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Google to Ban AdSense Publishers With Fake News Sites

     
5:26 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google is updating its AdSense policies and will now ban AdSense Publishers that carry fake news stories. Apparently, the new policy will go into effect "imminently."

“We have updated the policy to explicitly clarify that this applies to fake news,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance.” Google to Ban AdSense Publishers With Fake News Sites [nytimes.com]
“Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content or the primary purpose of the web property,”
11:19 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Be careful with the April Fools posts... :-p
11:39 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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But this is not the answer


Please read the article. The topic is about Macedonian spammers, not mainstream media like Fox News. There is nothing in the article about censorship of news sites. The article is not about censorship. The article is about catching spammers and only spammers. :) I even posted a quote there for your benefit.

If you find something in that article that indicates they're coming for Fox News next then post it. Otherwise your posts about political censorship are off topic to this discussion because they have no foundation from the article under discussion. It's about spammers.

Posts that are off topic will be removed. Please read the article and keep to the topic under discussion. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Thanks.

[edited by: martinibuster at 2:41 am (utc) on Nov 17, 2016]

12:55 am on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"If you find something in that article that indicates they're coming for Fox News next then post it. "

To clarify. I never said the article talked about Fox News and I never said they were coming for fox news. And to be honest I am not fan of or concerned with Fox News or other big brands. The one time I mentioned fox news, I said the article in question written by the Macedonian spammers is very similar to what fox news commentators said repeatedly through the election. My comment about fox was

"But these guys didn't come up with that .... a law professor said the same thing on fox news every chance he got. "

Here is the second line from the buzzfeed article talking about the fake news post : "Citing unnamed FBI sources, it claimed Hillary Clinton will be indicted in 2017 for crimes related to her email scandal."

Here is a story about Fox News saying pretty much the same thing. Fox Host: FBI Sources Say Hillary Clinton Indictment Likely - [youtube.com...] (Fox News actually made it sound like it could happen in 2016)

I actually don't see why them being from Macedonian matters. I mean we can't define spam as "someone from Macedonian".

I also am not saying or concerned they are going after brands. I think that is unlikely since big brands have big legal teams. And I am thinking of mostly smaller news sites and individuals. I mean censoring political discourse doesn't make me feel better if its "hey don't worry we are just targeting people and groups without legal teams that can't defend themselves"

I understand you are saying "it's about catching spammers and only spammers". That is easy to say and sounds good. But in this case I think it will be very difficult to do.

"Stupid Opinions" and "Fake News" are difficult to separate. I don't think an algo can do it. And humans with all their biases probably won't do a good job either. In fact I don't think humans can always tell the difference between "fake news" and "things I disagree with"
6:49 am on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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When I see something like this Google probably takes signals from the major brands and use that to sort out the rest of spamming articles.

Once in a while fake celebrity death news come into radar and annoy the hell out of me. Really hope Google can remove some of that #*$! by taking away one viable revenue stream of these fake news sites.

Repeated offenders probably get blacklisted or something...
8:18 pm on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"The topic is about Macedonian spammers"

It seems like you are bothered when people are bringing up the election and not talking about Macedonian spammers. But the original article that is in the original post for this thread :

[nytimes.com...]

Doesn't mention Macedonian spammers once. But it talks a lot about politics. The first paragraph explicitly talks about the us election

"Over the last week, two of the world’s biggest internet companies have faced mounting criticism over how fake news on their sites may have influenced the presidential election’s outcome."

And later

"Yet within Facebook, employees and executives have been increasingly questioning their responsibilities and role in influencing the electorate, The New York Times reported on Saturday."

The rest of the article continues to talk about the interaction of politics, tech and social media. For instance how facebook influenced political events in the middle east last year.

Instead of deleting posts (there were a few here yesterday that are now gone). It would seem to make sense to have two threads. One about the content of the nytimes article (which clearly is related to politics) and one about the buzzfeed article that is more focused on Macedonia Spammers.
8:45 pm on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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An important rule on WebmasterWorld is to please avoid political discussions. The posts removed were off topic because they were inherently political. You can argue that the NYTimes post is about politics and should be discussed (it's not) but even if it were about politics it would still be off limits to discussion on WebmasterWorld. So even arguing that the NYTimes article is about politics is pointless because discussion of politics is off limits on WebmasterWorld.

If you wish to discuss further please take it to private message as WebmasterWorld asks members to keep discussions of moderation action within the sticky mail system. Thank you.
11:18 pm on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The most obvious thing that will come out of this new policy change at g is that we might see a rapid rise in the number of manual penalties (from which we have empirical evidence there is no reprieve). The number of web sites which might get caught in this loosely stated rule could be immense.

Outright politics really doesn't have a place at WW (which means I agree!) but to ignore political reasons behind actions taken by tech companies and some journalists, particularly during a political season, would be both silly and dangerous.
11:27 pm on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Doesn't mention Macedonian spammers once.


True. That's why I posted the relevant link in the third post in this thread. The NYT article really failed to connect the dots on this story. I was rather disappointed with that article in that it missed most of the story.

The article is not about censorship. The article is about catching spammers and only spammers.


Respectfully, I would say there is some room for debate there.

Question 1: is it censorship if you say "we refuse to let our ad network participate in certain types of sites"?

I would say most certainly not. We have to be careful about defining censorship too broadly. If that is censorship, then the next step is to say that because Amazon refuses to list my product, that I'm a victim of censorship. Sorry, but no.

Question 2: Is it only about spammers?
I would say that's open for debate. Certainly that is the *intent*, but that doesn't mean it will be the *effect*. For example, The Onion, Andy Borowitz (in the New Yorker) and John Stewart (in days of yore anyway) frequently report(ed) "fake" news stories (aka satire) and would be caught in this net. Note, however, that they aren't crying, because these people are recognized for their quality and loyal readership to an extent that they can sell ads directly, without Google.

But there may be some concern, as I voiced earlier, that political satire could be caught in this web with the potentially chilling effect that sites that depend on Google ad revenue will be afraid to publish satire.

rapid rise in the number of manual penalties


While you may well be right, we can't say that. Remember, this simply concerns whether or not they can run AdSense, not whether or not they can get indexed and ranked. Given the stranglehold that Google has on the web, if they were planning to actually penalize these sites in the rankings and expunge them from the index, I would feel the claim of censorship would be justified. Google, though not a government, is in many ways more powerful than any government with respect to the control of information, so I tend to treat it like a government with respect to censorship (as opposed to a site like WebmasterWorld which has every right to delete my comments because there are many other places I can go to post my rants).
11:46 pm on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"So if someone else takes the reins at google and this changes to "no more anti-Murdoch sites" are you ok with that. This is generally how censorship works."

You honestly believe our news is not censored, doctored, manipulated and slanted already?

The truth is if Google were to remove all fake news sites it would have no one left.
12:36 am on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Either it is news or it is not. Fake news is not news. Fake news is misinformation disguised as news to inject bias into the media.

There are plenty of valid & well-established actual news sites.
2:25 am on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Still don't have a definition of fake news, so it's open to interpretation.

There are plenty of valid & well-established actual news sites.


That depends on who you ask, or who is making judgements. :)

What we have seen with g when there's a policy change, or an algo change, MANY innocent sites are caught as collateral damage, only this time there will be no reprieve.
4:32 am on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am referring to organizations that are registered with the FCC as "news organizations" unlike others calling themselves "news" but couldn't qualify so they had to register as "entertainment" or "satire."
12:59 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"You honestly believe our news is not censored, doctored, manipulated and slanted already?

The truth is if Google were to remove all fake news sites it would have no one left."

I actually agree with that statement. Well if you replace "fake" with "heavily heavily biased" I would agree more
7:15 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am referring to organizations that are registered with the FCC as "news organizations" unlike others calling themselves "news" but couldn't qualify so they had to register as "entertainment" or "satire."

I don't think websites that discuss the news are required to register with the FCC as either news or entertainment. If you had a television show that is more likely to require interaction with the FCC.
7:48 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think the last thing any webmaster would want to see is the FCC getting involved in what we do on the web! Do we want the FCC to registration just to sell Widgets? or have a review site regarding Widgets? "News" (which includes "fake news") is a Widget commodity, for example. Do we want to give the FCC control over the CONTENT of the web?
8:47 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@tangor - who said anything about the FCC controling content on the web? Please stop trying to spin this into a political agenda. This is not political. Facebook has removed the fake news sites, Twitter and Google have purged those accounts. The gov't had nothing to do with the steps taken.
10:05 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have friends that post crazy articles all the time. Each time it goes to some website with wild ads everywhere. Also lots of other sensational articles. Often times the articles have crazy picture many of them with half naked women.
11:31 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm pretty sure tangor was referring to your two comments

"Either it is news or it is not. Fake news is not news. Fake news is misinformation disguised as news to inject bias into the media.

There are plenty of valid & well-established actual news sites.
I am referring to organizations that are registered with the FCC as "news organizations" unlike others calling themselves "news" but couldn't qualify so they had to register as "entertainment" or "satire.""

I really have to admit I have no idea what you are proposing here. Websites generally have nothing to do with the FCC. And Google and Facebook have no control over tv news shows. You brought up the FCC not tangor. What role do you want to FCC to take if any. If there is no role for the FCC can you clarify why you brought them up in a discussion about online websites.

Also Tangor didn't bring up politics in his comments. He brought up the FCC. And he only did that in response to you bringing up the FCC.
12:01 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Websites generally have nothing to do with the FCC.
As I said, reference to the FCC was related to news organizations; some (most) have web sites. The comment was in response to the question asked earlier regarding what was "fake news."
I really have to admit I have no idea what you are proposing here.
Well that's the problem it seems since I am not proposing anything at all, only expressing my barometer to what I consider valid news organizations. Everyone else can make their own judgements about what is "fake news."

Other than that, let's please stay away from political rants.
12:09 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So you brought up the FCC "regarding what was "fake news".

How does the topic of the FCC come into play when defining what is "fake news" and what is "not fake news".

And "expressing my barometer to what I consider valid news organizations" so the FCC is involved in how you make a decision about what is fake news? That seems odd because 99.9 percent of websites that discuss the news (including most of the large ones and most of the small ones) don't have anything to do with FCC. Are you saying in your world view if a website is not associated with with a tv news show its "fake news"

"Other than that, let's please stay away from political rants."

I'm asking you to clarify your statement. That is not a "political rant".
12:15 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@romerome - You seem to want to draw this out. I never said the FCC defines what fake news is. I said that I (meaning me) consider how an organization is registered with the FCC. Many organizations being thought of as "fake news" could not qualify as a news organization when registering with the FCC because too much of their broadcast content (also reflected on their respective web sites) was not accurate. Much was considered "entertainment" or "satire."

Enjoy the rest of your day romerome :)
12:56 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Quit being defense. You brought up the FCC when tangor asked how to define what is fake news and what is not fake news in a discussion about google and facebook taking action against fake news sites. That seemed odd. So I asked you to clarify.

But whatever. So your comment was just how you personally see the web when you look at a website (FCC regulated or not) and had nothing to do with the larger discussion about how google and facebook will make these decisions.

I think Tangor was actually asking how Google and Facebook will make these decisions. But I might be wrong.

I think how google and facebook will make these decisions or how they should make these decisions is more interesting than how you personally see the web.
1:01 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So moving to how google and facebook should/might/could/whatever make these decisions. (since other points of discussion are outside of guidelines)

So figuring out fake news is obviously different than detecting hidden links. A hidden link or hidden text or spammy blog networks you can see by look at source code of a site or multiple sites. Fake news means looking at content and seeing if the meaning matches events in the real world. And there should probably be some kind of guidelines since people have different opinions on what is true and what is not true.

Potential guidelines could be

a) It has to be an event that has happened in the past (so you can't say its a fake news post if it posits a belief about something that will happen in the future)
b) It has to be disprovable. So yesterday there was a huge earthquake in California and people died is disprovable. But a fake story actually has to be easily disprovable. For instance their being invisible ghosts that live in the white house that secretly influence the president is really really really dumb but not actually disprovable (unless you cite evidence and that evidence cant be shown to be falsified)

[edited by: romerome at 2:13 am (utc) on Nov 19, 2016]

1:16 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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c) one post with inaccurate information doesn't make the whole site fake. I would assume there needs to be a pattern.
d) It would make sense to have a different line as far as facebook to getting kicked out of FAN vs getting a page deleted. (Ie it would take more cases of incorrect information to get a page deleted)
e) This might be difficult. But it would seem to make sense to judge articles with inaccurate information more harshly that don't site other sources. Basically going after the people that make up fake news vs news sites that accidentally get duped by a fake news source. (twitter doesn't count as a source)
f) Saying a person, for instance a politician, said X and X turns out to not be true doesn't count against the site as long as the person actually said it.

(I assume people that think there is an invisible line that always separates sites into one of two categories and don't believe in grey areas will find this discussion boring)
5:02 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@all (who are participating)

I am not being political. I am remarking upon several extraordinary things which have recently occurred:

a) g (and fb and twitter) finding any need to moderate anything, much less "fake news" FOR ANY REASON

b) webmasters injecting government specifications (aka FCC, example) as having a part of a) above, either as ideal or benchmark

c) ignoring the obvious elephant in the room

d) once started down this slope there's ancient history (regarding human communications) from bygone eras that reveal where this type of "moderation" will end up.

These are the things I'm addressing, and fearing, for the future of the web, the users, and business in particular. However this is sliced and diced this is censorship by non-governmental organizations acting like governments and that, dear friends, terrifies me. What speech, widget, or niche will be next? Mine? Yours?

Let's not ignore the elephant, or where this policy might lead.
6:47 am on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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1) I firmly believe that freedom of speech is A Good Thing, but it doesn't follow that anyone else is obliged to do business with me regardless of what I say.

2) Reputable news sources will make an oops now and then, but they'll issue a correction or update as soon as the error becomes known. That's rather different from making it a core part of one's business to create and spread falsehoods.

3) The ancient biblical story of the Ten Commandments includes telling lies right up there with murder and adultery as things God asks us not to do (Exodus 20:1–17 or Deuteronomy 5:4–21). I wonder what He'd say to the multitudes who brainlessly circulate other people's lies on their social media?
3:07 pm on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@buckworks
The ancient biblical story...
So discussing politics is not allowed, but religion is okay?

What is the motivation of Google and Facebook to take action of this fake news. It reflects poorly on the companies. It is a quality issue. Then the question comes why now. The fake news has been there for years, if it is a quality issue why wait until now?

One reason that I am seeing mentioned in the press (by legitimate news sources) is that there is push to get Facebook, Twitter and Google to be required to be considered as news organizations and in so far as news is concerned, they will need to abide by the regulations of the FCC. Clearly one can see that none of these companies have any interest in doing this. The impact of social media on the outcome of the recent election has put huge a spot light on how G,F & T handle the news. The last things these companies need is to forced be regulated like other players in the industry, (think of UBER's competitive advantage). So if you can show that you are taking action, even if this action is completely useless, then you can argue that you don't need regulations to keep you in check since you self regulate.

Here is radio interview from the CBC with Sherry Turkle of MIT essentially summing up my position:
[cbc.ca...]
3:38 pm on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The fake news has been there for years, if it is a quality issue why wait until now?


The election brought the ongoing issue into a hard spotlight
That's the short answer.

Inability to see beyond one's bubble
I was invited to Yahoo many years ago and during the course of that visit I brought up the topic of virus-laden sites in the SERPs. An engineer rolled his eyes, sighed loudly and stated that it was not their job to protect users from themselves. That engineer failed to see beyond the cultural bubble locking him into the view that his job was limited to providing SERPs.

Several months later Google rolled out virus warnings. The cultural bubble was popped and months later Yahoo followed.

The Cultural Bubble
Most people live in a cultural bubble. This has been the case for the past few thousand years. Reminds me of an Indian from India I worked with in Northern California who could not unshackle himself from his cultural bubble enough to enjoy the fantastic bounty of foods available to him in Northern California. He consistently ate Indian food at home and when he ate out at a restaurant this guy consistently chose an Indian restaurant. That's a cultural bubble.

It's a struggle to live outside one's cultural bubble, especially now, when mainstream media publishes slanted reporting. For the sake of not discussing politics I won't mention specifics. But the MSM is biased on both sides of the political divide and it was a challenge to extract exactly what was happening. Some of that bias is due to the cultural bubble. Some of that bias is on purpose. This is not the place to dissect which is which though.

I have long aspired to live outside of the cultural bubble. I've been called a Google apologist and a Google basher. Go figure. Living outside of the cultural bubble is a struggle that in my opinion most people lose because most people do not even know they are living in a cultural bubble.

Google's Cultural Bubble
Most people and organizations, like Google, do not know they are living in a cultural bubble. I think many in this discussion have called it a bias. But whether it's a conscious bias or an unconscious bias from living in a cultural bubble is beyond our knowledge. So why did Google ignore it? I suspect their cultural bubble insulated them from the problem. To the extent they ever saw it, it was in the context of fear baiting articles about radiation in sushi and the evils of gluten. Which leads back to nicks question:

The fake news has been there for years, if it is a quality issue why wait until now?

I suspect that those in charge at Google are liberals and they in their liberal bubble didn't really see it. It's not what they would normally come across within the limits of their cultural bubble.
2:02 am on Nov 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So why did Google ignore it? I suspect their cultural bubble insulated them from the problem.


I suspect that because it worked so well in 2008 and 2012 they didn't want to draw attention and have to do something about it before 2016. Now that the shoe is on the other foot there's immense pressure on g from exterior forces that trumped (pardon the pun!) their stand on the subject. I suspect there was a little reluctance to do this as precedent is now established and such activities will not be allowed on either side next go round (2020 - 2024).

This is either a cultural bubble or bias, or politics, but it all works out the same way. Once "fake news" is named as a penalty factor it can be used both ways, becoming a nullification, else extreme bias could be proved. THEREFORE, I suspect g will be rather ruthless going after fake news left right up down crossways, any ways and there will be more than a few weepers and moaners and collateral damage.
4:04 am on Nov 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I suspect that because it worked so well in 2008 and 2012 they didn't want to draw attention and have to do something about it before 2016.


Sorry, but no. The world of 2008, especially was more different than you remember.

Twitter active users, 2008: 200,000 per week in March 2008 [1]
Twitter active users, 2016: 140,000,000 per *day* [2], so almost three orders of magnitude and that compares weekly numbers to daily numbers.

Snapchat users in 2008: 0
Snapchat users in 2016: 150,000,000
per day [2]

Facebook monthly users, 2008: 100,000,000 [3]
Facebook monthly users, 2016: 1,790,000,000 [4]

Total number of iPhones sold as of January 2008: 3,700,000 [5]. Note, I pick January because there were huge iPhone sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 after the July release of the 3G, but that would have been too late to build a campaign strategy around.
Total number of iPhones sold as of July 2016: 1,000,000,000 [5]

Google Adsense revenue, 2008: $1,660,000,000 [6]
Google Adsense revenue, 2015: $14,930,000,000 [7]

I could go on, but you get the point. The whole concept of mass sharing of fake news was restricted to a much smaller and more tech-savvy audience in 2008.

The general cause of this is because the phenomenon has changed dramatically since 2008 and the proximate cause is the pair of articles in Buzzfeed and the New York Times about fake news sites that brought these issues to the fore... ironically through massive social sharing of these NOT fake news stories.

--------------

1. [techcrunch.com...]

2. [bloomberg.com...]

3. [yahoo.com...]

4. [newsroom.fb.com...]

5. [lifewire.com...]

6. [searchenginewatch.com...]

7. [adage.com...]
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