Media Structures & Regulations

Issues ››› Media Structures & Regulations
  • Google Takes Steps To Ban Fake News From Using Its Ad Service, Bolder Steps Needed For Facebook

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times reports “Google announced it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service, a decision that comes as concerns mount over the impact online hoaxes may have had on the presidential election.” Facebook has also faced criticism over the proliferation of fake news on the site, but will need to take larger steps to address their problem.

    According to the Times, Google decided to “extend its ban on misrepresentative content to the websites its advertisements run on.”

    Google announced it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service, a decision that comes as concerns mount over the impact online hoaxes may have had on the presidential election.

    The decision relates to the Google AdSense system that independent web publishers use to display advertising on their sites, generating revenue when ads are seen or clicked on. The advertisers pay Google, and Google pays a portion of those proceeds to the publishers. More than two million publishers use Google’s advertising network.

    For some time, Google has had policies in place prohibiting misleading advertisements from its system, including promotions for counterfeit goods and weight-loss scams. Google’s new policy, which it said would go into effect “imminently,” will extend its ban on misrepresentative content to the websites its advertisements run on.

    [...]

    Facebook has been at the epicenter of that debate, accused by some commentators of swinging some voters in favor of President-elect Donald J. Trump through misleading and outright false stories that spread quickly via the social network. One such false story claimed that Pope Francis had endorsed Mr. Trump.

    [...]

    Google, too, faced criticism after last week’s election for giving prominence to false news stories. On Sunday, the site Mediaite reported that the top result on a Google search for the words “final election vote count 2016” was a link to a story on a website called 70News that falsely stated that Mr. Trump, who won the Electoral College, was ahead of his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, in the popular vote.

    By Monday evening, the fake story had fallen to the No. 2 position in a search for those terms.

    Facebook also announced that it will ban “fake news sites form using the company’s advertising network to generate revenue,” after facing intense criticism following election of Trump because of the fake right-wing news that spread on the site throughout the campaign. But Facebook still allows fake news to be spread on users’ feeds where they can still generate revenue. Facebook officials even admit that the site could have updated their News Feed feature which would have identified fake news stories but claimed it would have “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds.”

    Join Media Matters in calling for Facebook to fix their fake news problem.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Is Too Scared Of Being Accused Of “Bias” By Conservatives To Address Fake Stories

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Tens of millions of Americans get their news from Facebook and an increasing amount of that news is fake. 

    In May, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with right-wing media personalities over concerns that “many conservatives don’t trust that [Facebook] surfaces content without a political bias.” Following the meeting, Zuckerberg noted how important conservative engagement was to Facebook by stating, “Donald Trump has more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate. And Fox News drives more interactions in its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world. It’s not even close.”

    Following the outcry by conservatives of political bias, Facebook adopted revised guidelines on its Trending Topics, promised its reviewers would undergo new training “that emphasized content decisions may not be made on the basis of politics or ideology,” and fired the 18 human editors it used to write descriptions of trending topics and ensure their accuracy.

    Facebook's response to the cries of “political bias” backfired on the company after just 72 hours when fake stories began trending, including a story about Fox News host (and Trump agitator) Megyn Kelly being fired from the network.

    The response from Facebook over conservatives’ concerns of “political bias” stand in contrast to the company’s response to reports that fake stories and hoaxes have taken over the News Feed of the platform, which according to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of web-using Millennials and 39 percent of Baby Boomers use to get their political news.

    A recent study by Buzzfeed found “hyperpartisan political Facebook pages and websites are consistently feeding their millions of followers false and misleading information,” with one of the most egregious examples being a group of pro-Trump websites originating in Macedonia which were “playing a significant role in propagating” false and misleading pro-Trump articles. One of the Macedonians contacted for the story, a 17-year-old, said, “I started the site for a easy way to make money.”

    Zuckerberg initially downplayed the widespread problem of fake news on Facebook and its effect on the election, saying “it’s a very small amount of the content,” and calling it a “crazy idea” that the hoaxes influenced the election. Zuckerberg has since acknowledged that his platform has a problem with false stories, but rather than meeting with journalists to discuss solutions as he did with conservatives in May, Zuckerberg offered up the excuse that “identifying the truth is complicated,” and once again expressed concern that Facebook “find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful.” Gizmodo reported that Facebook executives recently conducted a review of the News Feed process that would have eliminated fake and hoax stories, but that the plan was set aside due to concern that removing false stories would upset conservatives:

    According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

    “They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

    Recently Buzzfeed reported that despite fear of losing their jobs for and being warned about speaking to the press, “dozens” of Facebook employees have formed “an unofficial task force” to address the company’s role in spreading misinformation.

    Join Media Matters in asking Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to fix their fake news problem by signing our petition.

  • Breitbart’s Curt Schilling Praises Photo Of Man Advocating For The Lynching Of Journalists

    Curt Schilling: “So Much Awesome Here”

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Breitbart radio host Curt Schilling praised an image of a man wearing a shirt that promoted the lynching of journalists. In a November 7 tweet, Schilling responding to a picture of a man wearing a shirt that said, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required,” tweeting “Ok, so much awesome here”:
    Schilling Deleted Tweet

    While journalists have condemned the shirt’s message, Schilling’s post continues his promotion of inflammatory and offensive rhetoric, including memes comparing Muslims to Nazis, a comparison of the Confederate flag to biblical imagery, and an image suggesting that participants in a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” including civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), were not patriotic.

    UPDATE: Curt Schilling has since deleted the offensive tweet.

  • Days Before The Election, Sunday Shows Turn Almost Exclusively To White Guests

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    In their final editions before the 2016 election, over 80 percent of guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were white. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s racism has been a consistent theme of the race, but those shows hosted only 10 people of color out of 53 total guests.

    CBS’s Face The Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday each hosted only one person of color on the November 6 edition of their show, with Jamelle Bouie, Van Jones, and Juan Williams each appearing in panel discussions. NBC’s Meet The Press hosted three people of color: reporter Kristen Welker and panelists Jose Diaz-Balart and Fred Yang. ABC’s This Week set a higher bar, with four out of 12 guests being people of color. Two of those guests, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), appeared in a panel discussion.

    Here are the major political panels on each of those programs:

    Trump’s historic racism has been well documented. He began his recent political career in 2011 by spreading the racist and baseless accusation that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; used his first campaign speech to call Mexicans criminals and rapists; said a federal judge could not be fair to him because of his “Mexican heritage”; lashed out at Muslim Gold Star parents; has been celebrated by white nationalists; hired Steve Bannon, who oversaw Breitbart News’ attempts to normalize and embrace the white nationalist movement; and last week was endorsed by “one of the most prominent newspapers of the Ku Klux Klan.”

    Indeed, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria opened the November 6 edition of his show by highlighting Trump’s unprecedented racism as part of “the core views of Donald Trump,” noting that “Trump has consistently expressed himself -- in word and deed -- in ways that can only be described as racist.” Zakaria expanded on Trump’s history of racism, including being sued by the Justice Department for “allegedly denying housing to qualified black people” and his “striking[]” refusal to accept the innocence of the Central Park Five.

    In 2015, Media Matters’ annual Sunday shows report found that white men represented more than 50 percent of all guests on the five shows and that white persons in general made up more than 75 percent of the guests on each show.

  • Journalists Condemn CNN's Lewandowski Embarrassment After Trump Campaign Manager's "#teamwork" Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    CNN’s ethical dilemma over its employment of Corey Lewandowski, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, as a political analyst was on display once again when current campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her and Lewandowski with the caption “#teamwork #NH.”

    CNN’s use of on-air Trump surrogates has drawn widespread condemnation, with media critics pointing out that the practice has undercut the “work of [CNN’s] journalists.” Despite these concerns, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker has stood by the network’s decision to give Trump surrogates a platform to spread lies and derogatory rhetoric, claiming that CNN has a responsibility “to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for” Trump, rather than to provide viewers with accurate analysis.

    Lewandowski has been at the center of CNN’s ethical dilemma, with many criticizing the network for employing him as an analyst while he was still receiving payments from the Trump campaign, advising the Trump campaign, working on debate prep for the Trump campaign, traveling with the Trump campaign, and campaigning with Trump.

    A week after calling on the “@CNN Dream Team” of Trump surrogates to “stay strong,” on November 4, current Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her, press secretary Hope Hicks, and Lewandowski, captioning the tweet “#teamwork.” The tweet spurred criticism from members of the media, with The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple saying it “should shame everyone at CNN” and noting that “now we know that officially and unequivocally, the Trump campaign regards a paid CNN commentator as part of the team.” Others called the tweet -- and what it signifies about the relationship between a CNN analyst and the Trump campaign -- “totally inappropriate.”

    Sign Media Matters petition and tell CNN to cut ties with Corey Lewandowski immediately.