Alphabet Acknowledges Fake News

Leading tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been on the radar of critics for spreading misleading or fake news in last couple of years. The investigation of Russian meddling in 2016 presidential elections is ongoing and these firms have been grilled by Congress. Advocates of hate, violence, and meddling have been using advertising platforms of these companies to target specific audience and spread fake news to influence their thought process and encourage them to commit unlawful activities. Moreover, terrorist groups target specific users to lure them to join their groups and help them spread violence in the world. Facebook announced that it has been taking necessary steps to counter fake news by making some changes in algorithm and block accounts and pages that it suspects to be spreading misleading information. Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, recently confirmed that fake news and disturbing videos have been harming its reputation.

In its annual 10-K filing, Alphabet listed misleading information and objectionable content posted by third parties as risks to its business. This indicated that the company geared up to scrutinize content posted by third parties more strictly than before. The company gained 86% of its total revenue through advertising in 2017. However, the income would reduce if trust of advertisers fades and they reduce time and money invested in advertising on its platform. The firm suspected misleading and objectionable information will harm its reputation in the last year when some of the advertisers withdrew their advertisements from its YouTube platform. The revelation outlining that the video streaming platform has not blocked inappropriate videos for children was among the crucial reasons for withdrawal of ads. Alphabet announced that it will hire 10,000 human moderators to weed out videos that entice violence, exploit children, and spread hate speech.

Alphabet’s search engine platform Google became the center of criticism for promoting ads of fake news on fact-checking websites. Moreover, it delivered misleading information through voice search on its smart speaker and promoted conspiracy videos against the presidential candidate Hillary Clinton through recommendation algorithm on YouTube. These criticisms harmed reputation of the company and advertisers became wary of the platform before posting their ads. The shares of Alphabet plunged 8% after it reported less than expected earnings of the final quarter of 2017.

As social media giants and search engine platforms take necessary measures to counter fake news, users will be able to spend the quality time on their platforms. Tech giants need to deploy expertise to form algorithms to expel objectionable content and prevent harm to its reputation. Moreover, there must be some consequences for users who post such content. Not only fake news but also fake profiles need to be eliminated. The creation of fake profiles should be avoided in the first place. It is acceptable that abolishing the entire misleading content and fake news in no time is impossible. But the necessary steps taken to eliminate the content and preventive measures taken to stop users from posting such content will make these platforms worthy of time. Moreover, from the business point of view, advertisers will prefer platforms that are free from the fake news. The changes in policies and user guidelines need to be implemented as soon as possible to stop further circulation of fake news. Updating policies and regulation time to time will also help in preventing people from misusing the widely popular platforms.

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