Among the biggest topics of conversation in the news recently is, well, news – the fake kind. A huge increase in the prevalence of outright false news stories masquerading as truth has marked the year 2016, and this is of particular interest for anyone in the internet marketing field.
Search engines and social networks have been a particular topic as focus has shifted from the source of fake news to effective ways to keep it away from discerning citizens. What can sites like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others do to reduce or even eliminate fake news in prominent positions on their sites? There are a few potential options, some of which are already underway.
Removing any incentive for sites to create fake news in the first place is the easiest way to cut them off at the knees. The primary incentive is money, and most of this comes through ad revenue for these sites.
Google and Facebook have both already banned fake news sites from utilizing their networks, and this needs to (and likely will) become the industry standard. Chopping off scammers’ ability to profit from their forgery will remove a huge percentage of them from the mix.
Political capital is the other main incentive for fake news websites, and this area is a bit tougher to police. For these types, search engines and social media sites may have to dig deeper.
Sites like Google do retain the ability to decide which sites appear on their listings, particularly for specific news-related search features. Sites looking to be promoted in these areas are generally required to submit to a manual review.
More can be done here, though. Internet trolls are smart about toeing the line between “news” and other search engine segments, and sometimes this allows them to pass off fake news in the actual news section. Big search engines can do more to close these loopholes and keep sites from riding that middle.
Sites use mathematical algorithms which tend to rank search results by their “authority” level, and these are often effective at weeding out fake news. Because of the increasingly rampant popularity of fake news, however, some sites are confusing these algorithms based on their visitor numbers and other indicators.
Again, there’s more to be done here. Sites like Google and Facebook can partner with legitimate fact-checking sites to revise their algorithms and promote more content with a certain threshold for truth. Things are already in the works here, as well.
As we just alluded to, fact-checking sites are a beacon of light against fake news. Not only do they need to be properly funded and supported when they’ve established legitimacy, there need to be clearly-defined rules about the way search engines display their findings. It needs to be completely clear that Google and other search engines themselves are not determining what’s true or false – only objective, third-party sources should be doing this. However, it makes a ton of sense for a fact-check label to be present to the public, something Google introduced last month.
Want to learn more? Contact us at SEOWerkz to speak with one of our dedicated professionals about website marketing, search engine optimization or any other queries you may have.