Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google to Ban AdSense on Fake News Sites

Jack Nicas, Wall Street Journal:

Google said Monday that it is updating its policies to ban Google ads being placed “on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose” of the website. The policy would include sites that distribute false news, a Google spokeswoman said.


Some media commentators have urged tech companies to try to prevent the spread of such misinformation. Google’s move to block some of such sites’ revenue could prove a significant step in response to the controversy.

It isn’t surprising to me that it took a major election to recognize the impact of misleading faux news sites on public knowledge, and to take steps towards corralling it. That’s not a cynical view; that’s just how the economics of it work. But this is something that should have happened long before these sites could have an effect.

Unfortunately, restricting the revenue channels for these sites barely licks the surface of much greater problems: the high visibility of imitation news on social media, low public trust in broadcast and print media, and economic incentives that are not necessarily aligned with social value of well-researched news.

On the bright side, this election has forced every media entity and major social networks to consider their role in elevating non-issues and faux news while providing little-to-no coverage of policy proposals. But until their business models are predicated less on what attracts more eyeballs, and more on what is informational and valuable, it is unlikely that the media landscape can make a positive change.

Update: Facebook will also be banning fake news sites from using its ad network. Positive steps, made far too late.