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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,”
6:05 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Facebook is on the same track, as mentioned in the article. Just hours after Google's announcement, they had updated their FAN advertising network policy terms to be more explicit.
7:10 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This is a response to the Buzzfeed article (oh the ironies) about all the fake news sites in Macedonia that were posting fake Trump stories leading up to the election, many of which were believed by large portions of the electorate. I think the key is that they tried to post fake Sanders articles, but didn't make any money off them, so they gave up. So the ad money is truly driving this effort. It has nothing to do with politics (I mean, nothing to do with the political beliefs of the Macedonians behind these sites; obviously it has to do with politics).
[buzzfeed.com...]

As a historian, it reminds me of the media situation on the eve of the French Revolution. Tons of lurid stories about the queen and the court that are seen as major factors in eroding the support for the monarchy.
7:33 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Makes you wonder what they're going to do about the fake "health" sites... if anything at all.
7:50 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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martinibuster, there is nothing fake on the health sites. I lost 32 pounds and qualified for the Olympics in basketball and gymnastics after drinking two glasses of pomegranite juice per day.

That's my way of saying that my first reaction is that "health" is complicated, but then I realized so is politics, but some things are manifestly made up BS.

The bigger worry is what happens to legitimate satire?
7:53 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Will they ban Adwords ads to these sites too? That is taboola like chum bucket ad, eg: "5 things you should never eat" with an image of oozing egg.

I spend close to hour each day reviewing ads to block this crap from sites, all to no avail, since the day after they magically re-appear with new Adwords account, and new url but still the same spam.
8:51 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.
Of course, that could be a fake news story :)

There will always be a fine line between "news" and factual information. In today's hyperbole any story, true or interpretation, is news. This is in large part driven by profit & the insatiable hunger of the media.
10:32 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Still, the trained eye can usually spot the difference between exaggerated clickbait and made up nonsense. There's a degree of nonsense on most news sites but I think this is aimed that those who deal in it entirely.

All this is sad really. The internet was supposed to make us smarter and more receptive to ideas, not the reverse.
1:12 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The internet was supposed to make us smarter


Just like television, hailed as the greatest educational tool ever invented. Unlike writing, however, which Plato (or Socrates in Phaedrus) thought was dangerous because the same words could pass from person to person, wise man and fool alike.
2:10 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just like television, hailed as the greatest educational tool ever invented.

I remember that in Australia circa 1957...

Today?

So much trash TV as well as biased opinionated columnists masquerading as journalists.

Certainly the greatest educational tool ever invented for dumbing down a large percentage of the nation. "If it was on TV - then it must be true!"

Back on topic - when I first saw the thread title I thought they were going to do something about "faux news sites" who scrape a precis from genuine news sites, and then somehow they magically appear in the SERPS well above the genuine news sites for the story/news I was looking for, and then link back.
2:27 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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many of which were believed by large portions of the electorate


The problem isn't the fake news sites. The problem is that large portions of the electorate are rather dumb and don't get their news from reputable sources. I'm not even sure if they know what reputable sources are.
3:04 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@ember I will agree that fake news isn't the problem. The problem is the Twitter/Facebook algos that send users a continuous feed of stuff that they will tend to like.

This feed ends up being a reflection of a point of view that the user already holds. So now with more and more articles, posts and shared content, some real some fake but all confirming a this initial point of view, the users can only conclude one thing "that this point of view must be true!". This is compounded by one more factor, all this content is implicitly referred to you by your "friends". Well, actually, a subset of individual that you may have at one point in time included as a so called "friend", and this subset is conveniently missing any friends (true or not) that don't share your views. The beauty of it is, this bias is politically agnostic, liberal, democrat, progressive, racist, it doesn't care. These algo's are designed to cause group-think, the exact opposite of critical thinking.

In the past fake news would immediately be noticed by the consumer, since the consumer would be surrounded by a relatively wide array of opposing view-points (ok! at least two), the consumer would judge each view point on its own merit and then move on. Yes you would still tend to stick to your initial position, but none the less that position would be tested. But now since the Facebook/Twitter feed just regurgitates what it thinks you want to hear, you view is never test just confirmed. Like that slimy guy at the bar trying pick up, seducing his mate (prey) by telling them only what they want to hear. These algo's are smooth talkers unwittingly seducing you into doing something that your going to regret the next morning.
4:13 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That's quite right. The dull, the mediocre and the politically insecure live in a self constructed ideological bubble. They rely on the news sources they like. They seek confirmation of their existing views rather than competing views or intellectual broadening. When they step outside their bubbles it's usually to do combat with those on the 'other side'. It's one reason, possibly the biggest reason, why politics has become so polarised, partisan and nasty.

I might add that the mainstream media has done itself no favours, either with the standard of its reporting, its content or its business models. Trust in the media is at an all time low and this is pushing thousands, even millions people to less reputable and less accountable media sources.
5:22 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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One of the sad things is that to discover "fake news" g and others (think twitter and fb) will rely on "negative feedback" to determine if something is "fake".

Given today's users and ideologies, and the fact that one person and one computer can generate tens to hundreds of thousands "negative or offended" input I don't see this going down a "successful" path.

Worse, it might actually hurt g's underlying business.
11:18 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google could do nothing else but to make this statement. Finding, and then deciding on a site's efficacy will be the next challenge. Banning will be easy for Google, but painful for the AdSense publisher. I suspect there will be another round of complaints from publishers feeling unfairly penalised.

I have seen so many sites out there with sensationalist headlines devised to catch the eye. Clickbait. Once arriving at the site I soon discover it to be hollow, no substance, and a complete waste of my time. I now only click those sensationalist headlines for research, and 99% of the time I ignore them. However, for others, they use these sites as entertainment.

And, yes, often those sites are easily found.
12:01 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The problem is who makes the decisions. Certainly you have sites that are 100% fake news. But outside of that a lot of people disagree about what is true and not true.

And secondly news sites get things wrong. CNN MSNBC have all gotten stories wrong. Do you ban them?

Generally when google bans a site there is not much that site owner can do. So you can end up with a situation where some 21 year old kid doesn't like your site and "poof" you are gone.

That kid may not believe in vaccinations and think your article promoting them is "fake". That kid might believe in vaccinations and think your article against them is "fake".

This is very slippery slope.
12:29 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yes, it's sure a slope, but, romerone, what would you do? Leave it all for everyone to decide?

I'd far rather have seen the bar set higher on AdSense.

Oh, and what about sites, such as The Onion? I'd hate to see those sites get blacklisted.

We're back to that slope, with some pitfalls, too.
1:11 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think the problem with it is pretty much all sites have posted inaccurate news (CNN, MSNBC, FOX). This is something they should think long and hard about and come up with plan that avoids the pitfalls. Not just run out and start having random reviewers (that can be heavily biased) start banning news sites.

At the least this should be the criteria. A site needs at least X percent of stories to be false in the last 10 - 20 stories. You need to have 2 people of both political parties (4 in total) agree a story is intentionally false.

Otherwise you run the risk of employees on the right banning left sites they don't like and employees on the left banning right sites they don't like.

I know the intention is noble. But this could end up turning into facebook and google severely limiting freedom of the press.

Again everyone thinks "truth" is easy to define because in their mind it is. The problem is getting people to agree. Take two statements

"Clinton plans to make America a socialist country if elected"
"Trump plans to make America a facist county if elected"

A decent number of people think one of those statements is true and one is false. They just don't agree about which one is true.

I think global warming is clearly man made and is a threat to the environment. But if someone thinks its a myth created by a conspiracy of the Bilberburg group and Obama or whatever I think they are an idiot. But they have just as much a right to their opinion as I have to mine. And I should be able to use facts to disprove their ideas not click a button to delete them from the largest political forum on the planet because I disagree with them.
1:34 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@romerome the problem with your two statements is that it is impossible to determine in an objective way whether or not they are true or false. The terms socialist and fascist, in the context are ambiguous. When does a country become socialist, when it has a health care plan?

These statements are statements of opinion more than anything else, and if Google/Adsense starts banning sites based on opinion we have much bigger issue at hand.

The issue here is when site report things like 'person "A" did action "X".' Provided that action "X" can be objectively verified, then this statement can be falsified. Either they did X or not. Now the difficulty in my views is what if a site report that Person "A" did "X", but we later find out that he did not do "X". Was the report an honest error or an attempt to misinform? Did this happen once? How many strikes until your out? This leaves you with a very wide gray zone.

As a result, they can only ban the most egregious offenders, sites were it so obvious that banning the site is basically pointless.

I think the only solution is to tweak the feeding algorithms so that they stop only feeding you what you want to see, and instead feed you a variety of viewpoints for trusted sources.

Then question becomes how does one determine trust? Page Rank?
1:51 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@romerome the problem with your two statements is that it is impossible to determine in an objective way whether or not they are true or false.

I agree with the opinion. But the difference between opinion and fact doesn't have a clear line. And people frequently don't agree on what is fact and what is opinion.

If you say person A did action 'x' unless there is photographic/video evidence people don't always agree. In fact if a site says person A did action 'x' they only way to actually disprove that is if that person is under survelleance 24-7 (unless you say person A did action 'x' at this specified time.

And again sites get things wrong alot (including very large sites).

An algo tweek is a much better solution versus just going out and have reviewers make judgements on what is fact and what is opinion. And which facts are wrong and which are right.

Objective facts are generally easier to define in math and science. In news and political discourse (where this change is targeted) things get more murky.
4:35 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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From a technical perspective, it should be easy to implement, like:

if(in_array('cnn.com','bbc.com','huffpost.com','msnbc.com','nytimes.com','*.gov')) $fakeNews=FALSE; else $fakeNews=TRUE;

Hopefully the next step will be to delist sites that have higher prices than Amazon to protect customers from overpayments (too many people online pay more than they should).
5:21 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm hoping above is a joke.

But this is pretty similar to what Russia and China probably have. I'm sure in their view much of the content they censor is "fake" and "not true".

People can argue its technically different between the government and google and fb censoring. But the effect is pretty similar.
7:14 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That's my way of saying that my first reaction is that "health" is complicated, but then I realized so is politics, but some things are manifestly made up BS.


I agree. However the reason I bring up Health is because that's the niche the Macedonia teenagers referenced in the article are publishing "manifestly made up BS" on. It's not just them and it's not just now. The fake health, cosmetics and diet space has always been a huge affiliate money maker with a lot of "made up BS."

The scammers who worked the election news scam have, according to the article, moved on. They are scamming in the Health sector. The question of whether Google will go after the political spammers who have now migrated to spamming with Health sites should not be overlooked or dismissed.

What should be dismissed is the topic of political spammers, because they have moved on. The focus should be on where the spammers are, not where the spammers no longer are.
7:38 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Martinibuster
allow them to continue to earn money from fake content is important and should not be overlooked.


I don't think anyone here is arguing that point, at least I am not, I agree. The questions are:
1 How? That is how can you fairly and objectively determine what is fact and what is fiction.
2 Clearly there are egregious cases, which can easily be banned. But the problem lies in the gray zone where the distinction between fact and fiction is not clear.

All this to say, that this was seemingly triggered by the recent election results. From the perspective of politics, it is the gray areas that are the most dangerous. News sites that always publish fictitious news are not the problem, it is rather sites like breitbart news that are the issue. Is there news fictitious? Some may argue yes other no. In this case how can Google or FB fairly and objectively draw a line. They can't.

So my point is that, putting websites out of businesses by banning them from Adsense, may well be necessary, but it will not solve the problem of having a mis-informed electorate. (Please note, that I am not picking sides in regards to the outcome of the election. the mis-information can and likely was equal on both ends of the spectrum). The only way to have an informed electorate, is to be sure that all view points are heard by all, and that the electorate is adequately educated to be parse the information with a critical mindset.
8:04 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think what would make more sense is for facebook to tag articles they think are false and put a note above the article. And let people judge for themselves. That should not affect the algorithm directly but should indirectly.

If you look at the article what is weird is first of all buzzfeed is telling us what stories are fake. Really. Buzzfeed.

From the buzzfeed article, the posts in question were basically that Hillary was about to be charged by the FBI.

But these guys didn't come up with that. You have a retired judge who graduated from Princeton and was a law professor saying the same thing on fox news every chance he got. He had "sources" inside the fbi. Here's the thing. He probably did. Out of the 1000's of people at the FBI some yahoo probably thought she about to be charged after they reopened the investigation. And that random guy talked to this retired judge.

My point is how do you draw the line between "stupid opinions" and "false stories". Its not particularly easy. Are conspiracy sites "stupid opinions" or "false stories" or if you are into that type of thing those sites are "the only real truth and everything else is fake"

People like the idea of censors until the censor disagrees with them. And that can happen pretty fast.

Looking at history mixing censorship and politics tends to not turn out well.
8:25 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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“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,”


My first thought after reading those "conceal" parts is it will really pay to have your personal information, street address, phone, etc. kept private by the Registrar to keep you from telemarketing calls, mail, etc. Hope I'm wrong about that.


FarmBoy (I remember the good ole days when the worst thing was called a "urban legend")
8:33 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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...it will not solve the problem of having a mis-informed electorate.


That's not within the scope of Google's mission, what Google does. Google's sole interest is with the quality of the results. Here's what a Google spokesperson said:

“The goal of search is to provide the most relevant and useful results for our users,” Andrea Faville, a Google spokeswoman, said in a statement.


Speaking on a news search that returned a fake news site in the number one spot:

“In this case, we clearly didn’t get it right, but we are continually working to improve our algorithms.”


It's not about educating voters. And frankly, this issue is about more than just voters. It's about showing relevant and useful results.

how do you draw the line between "stupid opinions" and "false stories".


That's perhaps the most important question of all. It is a fact that the Google News service has a loophole that allows crap sites in. I have seen a number of pure garbage sites in Google News this year. The answer to discerning between opinions and false stories may lie in closing the loopholes that allow spam sites into the news algorithm in the first place. Clearly a major issue is with the poor vetting of sites let into the Google News service.
8:38 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Great no more Murdoch sites in google news then
8:43 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@martinibuster I fully agree, however the timing of the announcement leads one to think that results of the election have pushed Google to act.
9:19 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"Great no more Murdoch sites in google news then"

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.

" I fully agree, however the timing of the announcement leads one to think that results of the election have pushed Google to act."

This much is pretty crystal clear. People are upset about the election. I'm not happy. But this is not the answer. And the moves by FB and Google are clearly in response to the election.

In the beginning combining censorship and politics might sound appealing because its "just that guy" and he's "wrong", "an idiot" and/or "were sick of listening to him". But it usually doesn't turn out that well as history has repeatedly show censorship and politics tend to not mix well.
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