Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. are all under pressure to regulate the news content that can be posted on their respective platforms, which has made them reluctant judges of what content can be true, hateful or misleading. This kind of strategy is not in favor of these companies as users are undoubtedly going to become alienated, which will end up hurting advertising revenue. Furthermore, it will also open up a bigger debate on how much influence these companies should have over the content posted on their respective websites. Experts are wondering whether people really want Twitter and Facebook to decide what can be talked about.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook said in a post on Saturday that they had to be very cautious in this regard. However, the public trust in these internet companies is still going to decline if they don’t take any action against the harassment and propaganda spreading on their platforms. The companies have had to deal with increased pressure in the wake of the upset in the U.S. presidential elections in the form of Donald Trump beating out Hilary Clinton. Critics have said that Facebook should have taken greater action to get rid of fake news reports such as those claiming that Donald Trump had been endorsed by the Pope.
Google and Facebook have argued for long that they are simply neutral platforms that promote the exchange of ideas and are not publishers. They have tried responding to critics and both announced on Monday that they would ban sites they believe are distributing fake news by making use of their ad-selling services. For publishers, this is a very important revenue source. On Tuesday, Twitter said that it would enable its users to block notifications of tweets comprising of specific words in order to deal with the issue of harassment on the short-messaging platform.
Nonetheless, Facebook didn’t answer when asked about the methods or criteria it would implement for identifying sites publishing fake news and preventing them from doing so by using its ad service. The challenge was further highlighted through a previous effort made by the social network to select ‘trending’ stories. It had been asserted by some workers in May that those working on the ‘trending topics’ had been cutting out news from websites that were leaning towards the conservatives. The curators had been fired by Facebook in reaction and now these stories are chosen via an algorithm. But, some false stories have also been featured by the algorithm.
Google does use people for publishing accurate news on its Google News aggregator. In order to show up in Google News, the News organizations have to send in an application. These websites are scanned by software and low-quality ones are eliminated. Each remaining applicant is then reviewed by more than five people and they have to come to a consensus for approving the website. Approximately 75,000 websites have been approved by the team, which span across 45 countries. The number of moderators and the sites declined were not specified by Google.