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Google and Facebook crack down on scammers using ads on fake news sites

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Fake news sites are turning out to be a real headache not only for Facebook, but all sites that show, share, or aggregate content from publications around the world.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was even accused in recent days of allowing fake news stories on his site to influence the presidential election, though the Zuck dismissed the notion as “crazy.”

Fake news comes in several forms. It could consist of content from a news outlet that inadvertently put together an article using information hastily gathered from a site like Twitter during a breaking news event. Such errors, although thankfully rare, are usually followed by the content’s swift removal once the mistake has been spotted.

Or, as happened during the recent presidential election campaign, fake news might be created by political activists putting out bogus content in a bid to boost their candidate’s position or damage that of their opponent.

Finally, it could simply be the work of scammers deliberately posting phony news articles on a standalone site that’s full of revenue-generating ads, its creators banking on the story blowing up on social media so that more people visit their site.

Aware that Google AdSense ads are often used on scammers’ sites, the web giant said Monday it’s working on a policy update to restrict its ads from appearing on such webpages, according to Reuters.

In a statement, Google promised to “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.” Google already bans its ads from appearing on sites with pornographic or violent content.

Facebook swiftly followed in Google’s footsteps, announcing that it too is banning operators of fake news sites from utilizing its ad network to generate income.

“While implied, we have updated the policy to explicitly clarify that this applies to fake news,” a spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. “We vigorously enforce our policies and take swift action against sites and apps that are found to be in violation. Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance.”

The pressure has been growing in recent days for web services to work harder to eradicate phony news content from their sites, though it appears the challenge may be far bigger than many people expected.

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