Facebook and Google consider political ad block.

After much uproar Facebook and Google finally consider expert advice over ‘fake news’.

Newspaper on a laptop

Thursday, 14 November, 2019

What we mean by Fake News.

If you have been alive for the past 3 years then you have been affected by ‘Fake News’. Either by falling prey to a fake Facebook news story, or just being sick of hearing the term bandied about so frequently.

What is it? Well the clue is in the name; Fake News is/are fake news stories designed to look legitimate. They are used as propaganda, especially during elections, to sway votes and opinions.

Fake News is blamed for everything from Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 to the rise in the Anti-Vaccination movement. The danger of using it as a blanket excuse for any polarization is that it reduces all arguments to black and white. This creates more division and more likelihood for people to believe fake stories that align with their views, regardless of facts.

BuzzFeed discovered that 20 fake news stories received more Facebook engagement than the top legitimate stories about the US election. It’s now so ubiquitous it seems inescapable, but whose fault is that?

Experts say the buck stops with the media platforms they are shared on and are calling for action to be taken. Now three years on from the rise of Fake News it looks like action is finally being taken.

Why now?

This Autumn the chair of the US Electoral Commission called for Facebook to intervene with fake news shared on their site. To add to the pressure staff at Facebook even wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg. They said:

…it’s hard for people in the electorate to participate in the ‘public scrutiny’ that we’re saying comes along with political speech…These ads are often so micro-targeted that the conversations on our platforms are much more siloed than on other platforms. Currently we restrict targeting for housing and education and credit verticals due to a history of discrimination. We should extend similar restrictions to political advertising.

- US Electoral Commission

Some have argued that it’s a crackdown on free speech. However Facebook staff argue that they already have policies in place for financially targeted adverts.

Politics and finance play the most important roles in our lives, so why shouldn’t they both be regulated online?

While no official measures have been taken, Mark Zuckerberg seems to be thinking about it.

Change is coming?

NBC News has reported that Zuckerberg was considering limiting the ability of candidates to target groups of users. Later that week Google were reported to be considering a review of their own ad practises. The Wall Street Journal said Google was considering “changes related to what type of audience targeting the company allows ad buyers to place”.

Many experts are encouraged by this news. However it’s thought these changes are unlikely to be implemented by the upcoming December U.K election. So stay alert while you’re scrolling in the run up to the polls!

Natalie Dunning author picture


Natalie Dunning is a freelance writer and Media Psychology researcher based in Manchester.