Fake news was made famous during and in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, calling in to question the future of tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter. Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testified to Congress how many people they unintentionally exposed to fake content companies associated with the Russian government sponsored. Advertisers also discovered their ads were playing alongside terrorist propaganda and content largely viewed by pedophiles. The freedom of information flow that allowed these tech giants to prosper is now throwing into question the companies’ future.
Corporations are demanding change. Monday morning Unilever, one of the world’s largest advertisers announced it would pull all of its advertising from platforms such as Facebook and YouTube if they don’t make changes to rid their feeds of hateful and false content. Unilever spent $9 billion in digital advertising last year. Could this be the final push to make these platforms change?
How platforms have already changed
Twitter discovered 3,814 accounts associated with the Russian government-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA). U.S. law enforcement officials accused the IRA of trying to influence the 2016 election. Twitter uncovered these accounts during its Information Quality initiative. The company announced the initiative as its strategy to detect and prevent harmful actors from “abusing” their platform. It reached out to 4.1 million American users to notify them of the fake accounts and false information posted.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in January that to combat fake news it would let its users decide what information they trust. According to Zuckerberg, this is the most objective option. In addition to Facebook readjusting its algorithm, it now asks users if they recognize a source. If they do, it asks if they trust the source. Facebook added these questions to its regular quality surveys.
What changes are next?
But, with Unilever’s announcement this morning, it is clear Zuckerberg’s solution does not go far enough for them. And Unilever isn’t alone in its beliefs. Proctor & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, came up with a list of demands to make tech platforms safer and to ensure their ad money was being used how they want.
While the companies are making steps to change–YouTube announced it would have humans review all of the video available in Google Preferred–it sounds like more changes will come.