Google | Media Matters for America

Google

Tags ››› Google
  • The head of an anti-immigration PAC runs Facebook pages that share fake news from plagiarized sites

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    William Gheen, the head of an anti-immigrant political action committee, controls multiple Facebook pages that have repeatedly linked to hyperpartisan and fake news content from a handful of sites. Those sites feature nearly exclusively plagiarized content, which Google AdSense is monetizing.

    The pages No Welfare For illegals and Prosecute Obama, which have more than 450,000 followers combined, are run by Gheen, the president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC. Both pages ask people to sign up for email alerts from ALIPAC. Gheen has used staunchly anti-immigrant rhetoric in the past, and the Southern Poverty Law Center listed him as one of “20 nativist leaders” in 2008. Gheen has also been an opinion contributor for The Hill.

    From January through late May, both Facebook pages repeatedly linked to stories -- often not related to immigration -- from the sites proconservativesnews.com, thedeplorablesociety.com, thedeplorablegroup.com, and unite4america.com, all of which were registered this year. The pages followed a pattern, linking to one domain for a while before seemingly abandoning it and moving on to the next. The two pages have also intermittently posted content about ALIPAC during this time, making it unlikely that the pages may have been hacked.

    While the domain registration information for these four sites is masked, making it harder to definitively connect them, the pages Gheen runs have regularly and nearly exclusively posted content from those sites. Alongside those two pages, the pages Impeach Dianne Feinstein, Unite For Trump, Stop Corrupt Politicians (which has also promoted ALIPAC’s work), and God, Gold, & Guns - An American Tradition have often posted the same stories from those sites, many times at almost the exact same time and with the same accompanying language, suggesting that a same entity has been administering all of these pages and that the sites are also connected to that entity.

    The false claims that these pages have pushed from these sites include:

    • A fake story that WikiLeaks revealed that former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tried to bribe Republican presidential candidates in 2016 to oppose then-candidate Donald Trump. Three of the pages posted a link to the piece on February 5 at the exact same time, with the message, “Should Trump be allowed to Prosecute Hillary? Comment YES or NO.”

    • A false claim that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “It’s racist to only allow citizens to vote.” Three of the pages posted a link to the piece on January 24 at the exact same time.

    • A fake story that some celebrities called for a “total Hollywood strike” until Trump resigns. Two of the pages posted a link to the piece on January 30 at the exact same time.

    • A misleading article suggesting that the House ethics committee recently charged Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) “on 3 counts.” In reality, the incident had happened in 2010 and the charges were eventually dropped. Three of the pages posted a link to the piece on February 7 at the exact same time.

    • A false story that former first lady Michelle Obama said that “stupid women elected Trump.” Three of the pages posted a link to the piece on May 7 at the exact same time.

    • A false story with a clickbait headline that Trump made Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) “the most powerful man in Capitol Hill.” Three of the pages posted a link to the piece on February 4 at the exact same time, with the message, “It’s time the swamp gets drained. Now Gowdy can do just that.”

    • A misleading article suggesting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “confirm[ed] they are preparing to arrest sanctuary city leaders,” when in reality she said only that she asked the Justice Department to look into possible charges against certain officials. Three of the pages posted a link to the piece on February 4 at the exact same time, with the message, “Do it. Can't wait to see Schemer (sic) and Cuomo in cuffs.”

    • A false story originating from dubious site True Pundit (which former national security adviser Michael Flynn has also pushed on Twitter) that claimed the New York Police Department found emails on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) server that would “put Hillary … away for life.” Four of the pages posted a link to the piece on May 27 at nearly the exact same time.

    • A false story that former President Barack Obama had a “connection” to the Parkland, FL, mass shooting suspect. Three of the pages posted a link to the piece on May 7 at nearly the exact same time.

    Additionally, many of these pages have also:

    • linked to a piece from these sites -- all at the same time -- smearing Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg as “Little Hitler” and writing that he needs a “reality check on his place in the world”;

    • linked to a piece claiming The Economist, which it called the Rothschild family’s “global media mouthpiece,” said Trump was “threatening to destroy the New World Order,” with the text, “What's Your Response?”; and

    • linked to a piece falsely claiming that “Obama's family published his Kenyan birth certificate.”

    At least two of the sites that the pages have previously linked to, thedeplorablesociety.com and unite4america.com, are not only still being updated with plagiarized content, but are also now being spammed into Facebook groups by accounts whose activity suggests they are run from South Asia.

    In addition to the fact that many of the pieces are false and misleading, almost every piece from these sites is plagiarized. The content is often taken from other hyperpartisan and conservative sites without attribution, and it is usually uploaded with a byline of “admin” or only a first name. Every article on these four sites carries advertisements provided by AdSense (whose ads include the tag “AdChoices” at the top right), even though the service’s policies prohibit its ads from being placed on pages that feature copyright infringement and/or “entic[e] users to engage with content under false or unclear pretenses.”

  • Right-wing media’s latest pathetic attempts to smear Google as leftist radicals

    The two latest conservative “scandals” about Google actually have innocuous explanations, but that’s never stopped right-wing media from making dishonest “censorship” claims before, and it won’t now either

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservatives are using a pair of stories about Google search results to pile onto their claims that the tech company is intrinsically biased against conservatives. This claim is farcical nonsense, and it fits perfectly into a right-wing pattern of playing technology companies for fools with misleading or completely false accusations. 

    On May 31, Vice reported that Google search results for the California Republican Party listed “Nazism” as the party’s ideology in the knowledge panel, a section on the right side of the search page that quickly summarizes basic information on search queries. Then, on June 1, Vice also reported that the knowledge panel for North Carolina State Sen. Trudy Wade, a Republican, featured an image of her with “BIGOT” written at the bottom in red letters. Google has corrected both of these issues with its knowledge panels, which are automatically populated with information from a number of sources, some of which, like Wikipedia, anybody can edit any time. 

    Right-wing media predictably cry that Google has an anti-conservative bias

    Conservative media are using these stories to smear Google as a left-wing operative determined to take down Republicans. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade repurposed an argument from the Hoover Institute’s Niall Ferguson to suggest that Silicon Valley was upset at the Trump campaign’s prolific use of social media during the 2016 election and was trying to tilt the midterm elections for the Democrats. Fox’s Stuart Varney lied about the Trudy Wade image, falsely claiming that “a Google staffer put a ‘bigot’ sign” on Wade’s photo. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said the California Republican Party search result showed that “evidence is mounting that conservative voices are either being suppressed” or “being falsely depicted as hateful extremists” on Google. And Breitbart News scandalized Wikipedia’s relationship with the knowledge panel, claiming that Wikipedia allegedly has a pro-CNN bias. 

    Members of Congress even got involved in the reactionary pile-on. House intelligence committee chairman and all-around embarrassment Devin Nunes (R-CA) told Fox Business that “we [would] have to move obviously to hearings on these issues” if Google continued to “get involved in politics” and “censor conservatives and Republicans.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested to MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt that Google lied when it blamed the “Nazism” search result on Wikipedia, because he had “looked at Wikipedia” earlier “and it didn’t say ‘Nazism’” anywhere. 

    The right wing’s claims of bias are dishonest bullshit 

    As Google explained at the time, Nazism appeared in the California Republican Party knowledge panel because Google pulled the information from the party’s Wikipedia page, which had been “vandalized,” meaning it was deliberately incorrectly updated. Wired magazine reported that Wikipedia edit logs confirm that a user falsely edited the page to show “Nazism” as a core belief for the state party and that the note went undetected on the site for a week. It appeared on the Google knowledge panel because the search engine automatically “scrapes” Wikipedia to populate the feature. The edit logs might explain why McCarthy didn’t see “Nazism” on the page when he looked: The story broke on May 31 and he tweeted about it the same day, but Wikipedia had removed the “Nazism” claim from the California Republican Party page the day before

    Similarly, with Trudy Wade, Google removed the “bigot” image from her knowledge panel as soon as the issue was brought to its attention, but the search engine told her that she needed to ask the owner of the image to “take down or update the content” in order to completely remove it from search results. Wade complained during an appearance on the Sunday, June 3, edition of Fox & Friends Weekend that the image was still up, Matt Comer -- a North Carolina LGBTQ activist who first posted the image -- tweeted that Wade never contacted him, suggesting she is more interested in media hits than in actually getting the image removed.

    Furthermore, Paul Blest at Splinter News followed the money and found -- shockingly! -- that Google actually likes Republicans, especially Rep. McCarthy. For the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, political donations to Google’s PAC were split roughly evenly between Republicans and Democrats; in fact, Republicans got a bit more in 2016 than Democrats did. Additionally, McCarthy was one of the Google PAC’s “biggest recipients” in 2016 and got $10,000 in 2016 and another $5,000 in 2018 so far.

    Dishonest bullshit is the right wing’s trade, and business is booming

    As Media Matters has documented for over a decade, right-wing media outlets are expert traders in bullshit, and that trend has not slowed in the age of social media. Most recently, this trend has manifested itself with pro-Trump websites claiming the algorithmic changes at Facebook are censoring their content -- a charge pro-Trump social media figures Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson are leading, while occasionally betraying their profound ignorance

    However, users across the political spectrum have seen their Facebook page views decline since the platform rolled out new rules against fake news and hate speech. In Diamond and Silk’s specific case, the drop in their video views was not even as significant as that of the left-leaning MSNBC prime-time program The Rachel Maddow Show, which “has a much larger [Facebook] page and is the most popular cable news program in the country.” 

    None of these facts have remotely slowed down Diamond and Silk’s quest to gain attention for their invented grievance. They push their deceit on Fox News and the network actively helps them spread lies about so-called “censorship.” They even brought their perjurious carnival show to the U.S. Congress. Republicans repeatedly asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about this alleged “censorship,” and the focus on the two vloggers took time and attention away from more serious issues Zuckerberg perhaps should have discussed with elected leaders.

    Compounding this problem is Google’s reliance on unaccountable third parties for its knowledge panels and search results, including, when it comes to Wikipedia, volunteer labor. While most Wikipedia users likely engage with the site in good faith, vandalism clearly remains a problem and those problems can sometimes trickle out into the larger world. Among conservative circles, there have been and continue to be active movements around astroturfing -- or falsifying the origins of -- online debate. In 2014, BuzzFeed News uncovered “Operation Lollipop,” an organized effort by users of far-right image boards and men’s rights websites to impersonate feminists and start fights among real activists. Then, on June 4, BuzzFeed News also reported on a far-reaching effort from similar extremist websites to flood comment sections on Disqus with hate speech in order to dominate the conversation and recruit new bigots. There is too much bad faith online for Google to be so reliant on the honor system.

    The simple truth about right-wing media and alleged censorship on social media is that fake news, conspiracy theories, and online harassment are all more prevalent in conservative circles than in others. So if conservative media spaces are feeling the impact of policy changes meant to combat such misinformation more harshly than others (if they are indeed feeling such an impact), then perhaps it’s right-wing audiences and content creators who are abusing the platforms, not the other way around. 

  • As the midterms approach and foreign interference looms, just how screwed is America?

    What reporters and voters need to keep an eye on leading up to November

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN

    Midterm elections are less than 200 days away. We know that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and weaponized our favorite social media platforms -- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit, and even Pinterest -- against us. We know that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee and released some of its emails via WikiLeaks. We know that despite sanctions from the U.S., Russian trolls continue this activity and will continue their influence operations at least through the 2018 elections.

    America isn’t the only country facing this problem. Earlier this year, Facebook admitted that social media can be bad for democracy. Social media manipulation is a global problem, and Russian trolls aren’t the only hostile actors looking to weaponize the internet to disrupt democracies. Cambridge Analytica openly bragged to potential clients about its ability to disrupt elections, touting online targeting in a laundry list of offerings that included, according to U.K.’s Channel 4 News, “bribes, ex-spies, fake IDs and sex workers.”

    The tech platforms have all promised to do better in 2018. Facebook and Google have both recently announced changes in their ad programs that theoretically will make it more difficult for hostile actors to game their systems. Reddit and Tumblr banned all known Russian trolls on their platform and also listed their handles so that users who had interacted with them online could better understand their own exposure. Nearly two years after the presidential election, the tech platforms finally seem to be taking this problem seriously and cooperating with Congress and the special counsel’s office.

    But we still have a lot more questions than answers. There’s no public map of Russian activity online available to voters. We don’t know what, if anything, our government is doing to protect us from social media manipulation, and while it seems obvious that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, we don’t have a complete picture of what happened or what other political entities might have been involved. We don’t know if tech companies are collaborating to fight back against social media’s weaponization or if they’re focused only on their platforms’ individual issues. This is unsettling.

    Even more unsettling is that campaign staff on both sides of the aisle seem unaware of or unconcerned about foreign meddling in this year’s midterm elections. A survey of campaign staffers from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that “two-thirds (65%) reported they are not ‘very concerned’ or ‘not concerned at all’ about foreign threats to campaign cybersecurity.”

    For those observing this issue, whether from the perspective of a voter, campaign staffer, or political reporter, there are some reports/proceedings on the horizon which should give more insight into Russian interference in 2016 elections and hopefully will provide some more answers. Keep an eye out for these:

    • First, House Democrats plan to release all 3,000 Russian-linked Facebook ads as soon as this week. The cache will show “images of the ads, which groups the ads targeted, how much they cost and how many Facebook users viewed them.” Finally having access to targeting data should give us insight into how Russian trolls segmented the population and might also provide clues as to where they got the data to do so.

    • Second, Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr said in February that he was hopeful the committee would be able to make public parts of its report on Russian influence in 2016 before the 2018 primaries begin. He promised that there would be another open hearing on election security. Assuming that the Senate intelligence committee is still on track, we should see that report soon.

    • Finally, we could see a report or further indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller before the midterm elections. Conventional wisdom suggests that Mueller will either wrap up his investigation shortly or go dark until after the midterms. Should the former happen, the public will likely get more information about the 13 Russians indicted for interference in the 2016 U.S. elections as well as answers about the Trump campaign’s working relationship with Russian operatives.

    What we don’t know about Russian interference is terrifying. Information warfare, including via weaponized social media and cyberattacks, is a threat to democracy both in America and abroad. Leading up to the U.S. midterms, it’s up to news media and pro-democracy activists to sound the alarm. American voters need to understand what happened to them in 2016 and what’s at stake for our democracy this November.

  • Foreign actors are using Google's Blogger platform to spread fake news

    And it’s being monetized with AdSense

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    UPDATE: As of May 14, all of the sites connected to the Philippines mentioned in this report have been taken down except for International news and NewsFeed USA.

    ORIGINAL POST:

    At least 15 websites that traffic in fake news and that seem to have connections to the Philippines are using Google’s Blogger service to host their sites. And many of the false stories they publish feature advertisements from AdSense, Google’s advertising network.

    Google has come under fire since the 2016 election for becoming a platform ripe with misinformation and hate-based rhetoric through its search engine and its video streaming platform YouTube. Fake news sites and other bad actors have also relied on AdSense to monetize the spread of lies. 

    But those are not the only ways bad actors have relied on Google.

    Media Matters has identified at least 15 sites with foreign ties that use Google’s publishing platform Blogger to publish fake news and hyperpartisan content. Registration information for most of the sites has been masked, but links to the sites have been spammed into Facebook groups by accounts that are either from the Philippines (many of the accounts say they are located in the Filipino cities of Quezon City or Dasmariñas) or have activity on their pages suggesting they are from the Philippines (such as posting in languages native to the Philippines). Some of the sites have also published fake news that targets minorities, even though Blogger’s content policy prohibits hate speech. The sites are:

    These sites publish fake news

    Here are some of the fake news pieces the sites have published:


                        Fake news shared in a Facebook group by a Filipino account

    In the past month, Facebook-designated fact-checkers PolitiFact and FactCheck.org have called out some of these sites for publishing fake news.

    Fake news targeting minorities

    Some of these sites have published fake news that targets minorities, even though Blogger’s content policy explicitly bars hate speech, specifically “content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics.” And some of these sites have been monetized by Google AdSense, whose content policy also bars its ads from being placed on pages promoting hate speech -- and from pages “enticing users to engage with content under false or unclear pretenses.” (Blogger promotes Google AdSense on its main page.)

    Here are some of the fake news pieces these sites have published that target minorities:

    These are yet more examples of foreign actors exploiting the tech giants’ services -- along with the political and social biases of Americans -- to spread false or hyperpartisan content for money.

  • YouTube removed a compilation of Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook lies due to “harassment." His own videos are still up.

    Why does YouTube hold Alex Jones to a lower standard than other users?

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Update: As of 1:50 p.m. ET, the video has been restored to YouTube. 

    On April 17, two Sandy Hook families announced defamation lawsuits against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. While Media Matters has long documented Jones’ claims that the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, CT, was staged, upon hearing the news of the legal action, my colleague Leanne Naramore made a compilation video of some of Jones’ attacks, which a cursory search showed no one had done before. Watch:

    At some point over the next five days, though, YouTube removed the video from its website. If you go to the link now, this is all you see:

    Upon logging into the YouTube account, we were greeted with this message:

    Yet here is a sampling of the Sandy Hook videos still live on Jones’ YouTube page, a number of which were used in making the compilation:

    In February, Jones’ YouTube page was reportedly one strike away from being banned. Shortly thereafter, a large number of advertisers pulled their ads from his channel; President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee kept airing ads on it, though.

    It is not clear why YouTube holds Alex Jones to a lower standard than it does other users. The Sandy Hook hoaxes are not the only example of harassment on his channel. It’s pervasive -- part of Jones’ entire brand.

    Meanwhile, research shows that YouTube’s algorithm directs users towards videos like the ones Jones posts, which the site then profits from. And while Facebook has undergone significant scrutiny in recent weeks, YouTube has thus far escaped significant criticism. There’s no better time than the present to change that.

  • A network with websites registered overseas is pushing fake news to Americans through Facebook

    The websites are registered in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: As of May 4, all of the Facebook pages and groups that Media Matters identified as part of this network have been taken down.

    ORIGINAL POST:

    A number of Facebook pages, accounts, and groups pushing fake news and hyperpartisan content to Americans are linked to websites registered in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The pages have nearly 200,000 followers combined and the groups have nearly 60,000 followers combined. This is another example of foreign actors spreading fake news on Facebook.

    At least four Facebook pages, Trump Lovers, The Legends Of Nation, Amazing America, and Fox News HD (which has no connection to Fox News), have repeatedly linked to and are connected to the sites urduchanel.com, usavison.com, amazngamerica.com, americahunks.com, and urdukhabarnaama.com. The first four sites are registered to a “Qasim Saeed” in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and urdukhabarnaama.com is registered to a “shahak” in Mirpur, Pakistan. The Facebook pages have regularly linked to different fake stories and hyperpartisan content, with Trump Lovers, The Legends Of Nation, and Amazing America sharing many of the posts from the “Fox News HD” Facebook page.

    The Amazing America Facebook page also has a pinned post which invites users to a private group called Trump Supporters 2020.

    User accounts Trump TRAIN, Muhammad Saleem, Zeng Jianfu, and Shaida Manzoor are in the list of administrators and moderators who run Trump Supporters 2020. Saleem’s account lists the Trump Lovers page as its workplace. Manzoor’s account has not only repeatedly promoted the group, but also wrote in an October post, “Need a frends who add frends in my group i will pay 5$ per 1000 members any body intrusted to do it i m ready for deal (sic).” A user responded to her post claiming he could do it if paid, to which Manzoor responded, “Come inbox i want to check first (sic).” It is unclear if the transaction happened.

    As BuzzFeed has noted, this practice of trying to buy members for groups violates Facebook’s terms of service.

    Another group, President Donald J. Trump, Melania, Ivanka, Tiffany group, has nearly 52,000 members, and is run by some of the same accounts that are operating the Trump Supporters 2020 group, including Manzoor.

    The accounts running the President Donald J. Trump, Melania, Ivanka, Tiffany group have repeatedly posted fake stories and hyperpartisan content from these Middle Eastern and Pakistani sites there:

    The accounts have also posted memes pushing fake news and hyperpartisan content, along with promoting urduchanel.com.

    Fake news in American politics is a worldwide problem, not just centered around Eastern Europe. And some of these foreign sites monetize their fake news with Google AdSense (whose ads include the tag “AdChoices” at the top right). Facebook groups, whose content the platform plans to make more prominent in users’ news feeds, are now a hotspot for foreign meddling.

  • A network in Kosovo is using its sketchy Facebook groups to spread fake news to Americans

    And the players all likely come from one town

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE: As of May 4, all but one of the Facebook groups Media Matters identified as part of this network have been taken down, with Sean Hannity Fans ( OFFICIAL ) the only one remaining up. The pages Conservative Today, Hannityfansofficial, and News Donald Trump have also been taken down.

    ORIGINAL POST:

    A group of Kosovars are running a network of Facebook groups that look like they are based in the U.S., seemingly to fool users into clicking on their associated websites -- which often push fake news and hyperpartisan content -- so they can get traffic for ad revenue. The groups, which are likely all run from the Kosovan town of Podujevo, have more than 107,000 members combined.

    Since the 2016 election, Facebook has come under fire for the spread of fake news on its platform. Much of that scrutiny has focused on Russian accounts creating American-looking Facebook pages and, to a lesser extent, Macedonians spreading fake news, sometimes via American Facebook groups. But not all of the foreign activity comes from those countries.

    A Facebook group called Sean Hannity FANS (named after the Fox News host) formed about two years ago, offering what would probably appear to Americans to be a place to share conservative-related content. The group, which currently has more than 11,100 members, is administered by accounts Conservative Today, Hannityfansofficial, and apparently News Donald Trump, Labinot Rma Kosumi, and Blerina Shala as well. The group also has multiple moderators.

    Conservative Today’s page is connected to and has repeatedly posted links (some to fake news) from the website The Breaking, which is registered in Podujevo, Kosovo. Hannityfansofficial’s page has repeatedly posted fake news from the website WebViners, which is also registered in Podujevo, Kosovo. The page has also posted from the website politicreport.info, which is also registered from the town of Podujevo, and fake news from The Breaking. The page of another administrator of the Sean Hannity FANS group, News Donald Trump, is connected to a website with the same name, which is registered in Podujevo. That page has repeatedly posted fake news from the website News Trump, also registered in Podujevo. Additionally, some of the Sean Hannity FANS group moderators and named administrators say on their pages that they live in or are from Podujevo. (One such moderator claims to work for Facebook.) And on the Sean Hannity FANS group page itself, the moderators and administrators have posted multiple fake stories and links to hyperpartisan content from the aforementioned sites or the site News Trumps, which is also registered in Podujevo.

    At least three other Facebook groups are run by most of the same accounts, where they also post fake news from the aforementioned sites. One of them, Trump Supporters 2020, has more than 36,200 members; it also has the same Hannityfansofficial and News Donald Trump accounts listed as administrators, along with another account for Labinot Kosumi and a man named Gzim Llugaliu (who claims on his page to have gone to a Kosovan college and to work for Google AdSense). And within the group, the moderators have repeatedly posted fake news and discriminatory and hyperpartisan content from the WebViners site. Another group, MAGA, which has more than 29,300 members, has the same administrators as Trump Supporters 2020, and they have repeatedly posted fake news and hyperpartisan content from WebViners there. A different group, Sean Hannity Fans ( OFFICIAL ), which is closed and has more than 31,000 members, has the same administrators and moderators as Sean Hannity FANS. Based on their history, it is likely that these accounts post fake news within that group as well.

    This network provides a venue for Kosovars, some of whom have also created numerous fake Native American pages, to trick Americans with fake news and hyperpartisan content to get clicks for money. Indeed, at least some of the websites they’re directing users to carry Google AdSense (whose ads include the tag “AdChoices” at the top right), allowing them to monetize their fake news and hyperpartisan content. These practices persist even though Google told Congress late last year that it had “taken steps” to demonetize bad actors pushing fake news. And, like with Russian propaganda accounts, this network will undoubtedly trick some Americans with entrenched partisan views into helping spread its content.

  • Tucker Carlson promotes another social media platform full of bigotry

    First it was an app called a “haven for white nationalists,” now it’s a social media network with content even Google’s AdSense is trying to avoid

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Last night on his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson hosted Bill Ottman, co-founder of a social media network you might have not heard of -- Minds.com. Carlson helped Ottman push the right-wing narrative that tech companies are censoring “free speech,” without noting the racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic content found on Ottman’s site. From the February 21 edition of Fox’s Tonight with Tucker Carlson:

    Carlson opened the segment declaring that tech companies are “a far bigger threat to your civil liberties than the federal government ever was.” He asked Ottman how Google is “trying to censor” his site, Minds, which purports to be a “community-owned social networking platform that rewards” users for their “activity online with revenue and more views.” In response, Ottman asserted that Google had banned his company from its AdSense advertising platform and blamed its “out-of-control algorithms which basically blanket ban companies based on certain keywords with no real rationality.” When Carlson asked Ottman for reasons the site would have been banned, Ottman deflected, saying, “Probably some keyword that got caught up in their algorithms. But it's actually a symptom of a bigger problem of censorship.” Carlson failed to push back on Ottman’s vague answer and inform his audience about the hateful content found on Minds.com.

    Ottman also claimed his company was building its own ad network to “battle” Google’s policies. Google has been under pressure to do more to weed out hateful rhetoric from its platform, with companies growing increasingly reticent to display their advertisements next to “toxic content.”  (It has continued to fall short in its efforts, as evidenced by white supremacist content that still gets monetized on Google platforms.) Yet, both Carlson and Ottman failed to explain how the anti-Semitic posts or content offensive to women found on Minds would entice any brands to advertise on the platform.

    Here is a sample of the types of content found at Minds.com:

    Holocaust denial:

    Celebrating swastikas:

    Hijacking the #meToo movement with racist memes:

    Anti-Semitism:

    Pushing the misogynist "shit test":

    Sharing misogynist videos in support of Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW):​

    Besides being reluctant to condemn white supremacists, Carlson has a record of using his show to promote the dregs of the internet and stand up for white supremacist speech.​

  • Russian trolls moved 340,000 Americans up the ladder of engagement

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Last night, The Washington Post revealed that Russian trolls “got tens of thousands of Americans to RSVP” to local political events on Facebook. We’ve known since last September that Russian trolls employed this tactic and often created dueling events at the same location and time, probably to incite violence or increase tension within local communities. But it is only now we’re learning the scale of that engagement. Per the Post, “Russian operatives used Facebook to publicize 129 phony event announcements during the 2016 presidential campaign, drawing the attention of nearly 340,000 users -- many of whom said they were planning to attend.”

    The new information comes via the Senate intelligence committee, which has been investigating potential Russian collusion in the 2016 U.S. elections and pressuring tech companies, especially Facebook, Twitter, and Google, to disclose more of what they know about just how much propaganda Americans saw on their platforms. Both Twitter and Facebook have agreed to let users know if they were exposed, but given that we’re still learning more about the scale of the operation, I’m skeptical that anyone knows how many Americans were exposed to Russian propaganda or how often. (If you’d like to check for yourself, I helped create a site that allows anyone to check the likelihood of them being exposed on Facebook.)

    By now most Americans accept that Russian propaganda appeared on their social media feeds in 2016. What concerns me is whether or not they believe that they themselves were susceptible to it. The fact that nearly 340,000 people RSVP’d to events created by Russian trolls -- that they moved up the ladder of engagement from consuming content to RSVPing to an event -- should make us all reconsider our own vulnerability, especially when you consider that many of these events were created to sow discord. Russia’s goal is to destabilize U.S. democracy. Stoking racial, cultural, and political tensions in local communities across the U.S. via creating events on Facebook is a cheap and effective way for Russian trolls to do this.

    Russia’s use of social media to disseminate propaganda and stoke political tension is an ongoing problem. Last fall, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA), leaders of the Senate intelligence committee, issued a bipartisan warning that Russian trolls would continue their actions into the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential elections to sow chaos. A ThinkProgress article on the now-defunct website BlackMattersUS.com illustrates how sophisticated propaganda operations can use content, online campaigns, offline events, and relationships with local activists to develop trust and credibility online. And as the successful dueling event demonstrate, all Americans, no matter what their political persuasion, are susceptible to these influence operations.

    As Recode Executive Editor Kara Swisher pointed out on MSNBC today, we’re in an “ongoing war.” There’s no easy way to tell if the content we see on our social media feeds comes from Russian trolls or other hostile actors. There’s no media literacy course or easily available resource that can teach individuals how to identify propaganda. That’s why regulation that protects consumers such as stricter disclosure of political ads and safeguards against fraud is so vital to solving this problem. Especially as tech companies have proven reluctant to make any real changes beyond what public pressure demands of them.

  • A fake Bruce Willis story is being monetized by Google AdSense and prominently featured on YouTube

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Google, through its advertising network Google AdSense, is monetizing multiple fake news websites spreading a bogus story that actor Bruce Willis wants critics of President Donald Trump to move out of the United States. Additionally, the made-up story is featured prominently on YouTube, which is owned by Google. This is just the latest example of Google floundering in its supposed efforts to fight fake news.

    On November 27, Snopes.com flagged a “made-up news story” that circulated on fake news websites alleging that actor Bruce Willis said Trump was “doing great. In fact, he just might be the best US President ever.” The fake news articles additionally claimed that Willis said Trump’s critics should “go to Canada or something.” As Snopes noted, the fake story was based off of an October 2015 appearance by Willis on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon where he dressed up as Trump.

    The fake story has gone viral, spreading to multiple fake news websites. Combined, the posts have received well over 100,000 Facebook engagements, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo. Several of the websites running the story are using Google AdSense -- identifiable by the blue triangle in the top right corner -- to make money off of the fake story. (A previous Media Matters report found that Google AdSense was one of the most widely used advertising networks by fake news websites.) At least one of these posts with AdSense advertisements is on a website registered in Denmark.

    In addition to Google AdSense monetizing the fake story about Willis, YouTube featured the fake story in its top results when one searches for “Bruce Willis.” YouTube videos promoting the made-up story have received over 85,000 views combined. Along with its parent company Google, YouTube has also claimed it has taken steps to address fake news.

    Google has struggled to stop misinformation being spread through its platforms. Last week, a Google search featured a fake story about actor Keanu Reeves. Similarly, AdSense also featured advertisements on some of the websites pushing that made-up story. The fake story also remains the top result when Reeves’ name is typed into YouTube -- a full week after multiple outlets flagged it. Google’s search platform has also featured scams and false claims from far-right message boards, while Google AdSense has continued to monetize other fake news stories and race-based lies.

  • Google is promoting and monetizing a website’s fake story about Keanu Reeves

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Google has a serious problem with promoting and monetizing fake news, as a recent fabricated story about actor Keanu Reeves has shown once again. The story, which originated from a fake news website, was still one of the first results for an incognito search of Reeves’ name in the news section of Google’s platform even after it was flagged as false, and the company’s advertising network, AdSense, is helping monetize the same fallacious story.

    On November 19, prominent fake news website YourNewsWire published a post headlined “Keanu Reeves: Hollywood Elites Use ‘Blood Of Babies’ To Get High” that claimed Reeves said that “Hollywood elites use ‘the blood of babies to get high’” and that “‘these people believe the more innocent the child, and the more it suffered before it died, the better the high.’”

    The story was blatantly fake, but it quickly spread. It was posted on both of YourNewsWire’s associated Facebook pages, as well as on other fake news websites, some of which are funded by ads from Google AdSense (identifiable by the blue triangle in the top right corner), one of the advertising services most widely used by fake news websites. On November 21, the story appeared on the fake news website The Weekly Observer, under the headline “Keanu Reeves warns that the elite of Hollywood drinks blood from babies.”

    Despite the blatantly false claims in The Weekly Observer’s post, Google has lent legitimacy to the story by including it in its news results. It appears as the third result in a search for "Keanu Reeves." (Results are from a search conducted in an incognito window; a user's search history and preferences may affect what they see in a normal window.)

    Not only is Google helping the story spread by presenting it prominently in its search results, the company is also allowing The Weekly Observer to monetize its fake story by permitting Google AdSense ads to appear on the page. Since 2011, Google's placed advertisements have been identifiable by a blue triangle icon and the words “AdChoices.” Several such advertisements are visible on The Weekly Observer’s post.

    In recent testimony in front of the House intelligence committee, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel claimed that the company has “taken steps” to demonetize misrepresentative websites. According to Google AdSense’s policies, “Google ads may not be placed on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about you [or] your content.” Despite the company’s promises to prevent the monetization of misrepresentative and fallacious content, Google ads still regularly appear alongside fake stories, and Google AdSense is still profiting off of multiple fake news sites.

  • Fake news website YourNewsWire deletes bogus story about Keanu Reeves

    Facebook, YouTube, and Google all helped the story spread

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Prominent fake news website YourNewsWire deleted a fabricated story headlined “Keanu Reeves: Hollywood Elites Use ‘Blood Of Babies’ To Get High” after the site was called out for its lie on Twitter -- but not before the post was widely circulated on verified Facebook pages, converted into a monetized YouTube video that became the top result when searching for the actor’s name on YouTube, and posted on other fake news sites that feature ads placed by Google. This is just the latest example of tech platforms aiding in the spread of misinformation from fake news websites.

    On November 19, YourNewsWire published a post claiming Reeves said that “Hollywood elites use ‘the blood of babies to get high’” and that “‘these people believe the more innocent the child, and the more it suffered before it died, the better the high.’” The story was blatantly fake, but it quickly spread. It was posted on both of YourNewsWire’s associated Facebook pages, both of which are verified by Facebook. One of those pages is called The People’s Voice; the other, called YourNewsWire after the website, recently lost its verification under unexplained circumstances, but has since gotten it back. The false story about Reeves received more than 26,000 Facebook engagements, according to BuzzSumo. The Facebook posts have since been deleted.

    The story was also posted on other fake news websites, some of which are funded by ads from Google AdSense, one of the most widely used advertising services by fake news websites. (YourNewsWire’s article displayed ads via Revcontent, another ad service used frequently by fake news sites.)

    Additionally, a video pushing the fake story from the account Kinninigan for a time became the top result for a search of Reeves’ name on YouTube, which is owned by Google and which has struggled to not feature misinformation on its platform. It has been viewed over 114,000 times and is monetized with ads as well; Media Matters found on the video an ad for the movie Lady Bird. In effect, YouTube, Google, and Kinninigan are all potentially making money from this video claiming that Reeves said “Hollywood elites” get high from drinking baby blood. (Kinninigan’s account features a number of videos of YourNewsWire content, as well as conspiracy theory videos and videos about various celebrities such as Sofia Vergara, Angelina Jolie, and Hillary Clinton being reptilian shapeshifters.)

    After some people on Twitter promised to flag the article as fake news on Facebook following a tweet from a Media Matters researcher who had called out the fake story, YourNewsWire's owner, Sean Adl-Tabatabai, lashed out. Adl-Tabatabai, who has openly stated that he believes facts are not sacred, tweeted:

    Although YourNewsWire took down the fake story after it was called out, the damage had already been done: other websites have now picked up the story and people are still sharing it on Facebook and elsewhere, as noted by Mashable.

    The tech companies that contribute to the spread of fake news and profit from these stories are, at least in part, responsible for them. They have also, as noted by BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel, repeatedly bungled handling the spread of misinformation. By verifying YourNewsWire’s pages, Facebook -- which claims to be committed to fighting fake news on its platform -- is implicitly indicating to its users that the website has some kind of legitimacy, which it clearly does not merit. And YourNewsWire is not alone; although Facebook appears to have removed at least one verified page for a fake news website and blocked its links, plenty of other fake news websites’ Facebook pages remain verified.

    All of these companies should be aware that YourNewsWire is a bad actor. The site, which was founded in 2014, has come under fire for repeatedly publishing fake stories like a dying former MI5 agent confessing to killing Princess Diana, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helping run a pedophilia ring from the basement of a D.C. family pizzeria (which in fact led to a gunman to open fire in the restaurant), and actor Morgan Freeman wanting Clinton to be jailed. Some of YourNewsWire’s fake stories about Clinton and about former President Barack Obama have even been pushed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity. The website, which American and European experts have called a Russian proxy, has also published fake stories that seem to fit Russia’s anti-democratic, anti-European Union (EU), and anti-George Soros agenda. (The website has also been promoted by what appears to be a revived version of @TEN_GOP, a Russian account that was run by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency.) And recently, the website published a fake story that the gunman involved in the massacre in Sutherland Springs, TX, was a member of antifa; the false story went viral and received more than a quarter million Facebook engagements, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo.

  • Google is still profiting from a racist fake news site that promotes violence 

    Freedom Daily hosts Google ads right next to racist content that advocates for anti-Muslim violence

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN & NATALIE MARTINEZ

    Google advertising network AdSense is helping monetize racist and dangerous anti-Muslim articles from the fake news website Freedom Daily, despite clear violations of AdSense’s policies prohibiting content that "[t]hreatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others" or “incites hatred against” an individual or group on the basis of race or religion.

    Racist content is part of Freedom Daily’s DNA. Between September 15 and October 15, the site published over 100 articles about the recent NFL player protests in support of civil rights, many of which denigrated black players because they are black and falsely claimed that the protests led to anti-white attacks. And Freedom Daily’s posts about NFL players are just part of its targeted racist content, which includes articles promoting violence and hatred against Muslims.

    In recent testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel claimed that the company has “taken steps” to demonetize misrepresentative websites and has added to its policies “around or against hate speech.” According to Google AdSense’s policies, “We don’t permit monetization of dangerous or derogatory content”:

    Dangerous or derogatory content

    We believe strongly in freedom of expression, but we don't permit monetization of dangerous or derogatory content. For this reason, Google ads may not be placed on pages containing content that:

    • Threatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others;
    • Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals;
    • Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.

    But Google AdSense is still profiting off of multiple fake news sites, including Freedom Daily and its related site mPolitical (mPolitical features the same posts and bylines as Freedom Daily, and the two sites share a Google ad code), by providing advertising to them in a clear contradiction of its policies (which also prohibit “misrepresentative content”). Here are 10 posts from Freedom Daily swarmed by ads from AdSense that Google might want to take a look at:

    Note: The blue arrow in the corner of an ad indicates that it was placed by AdSense.

    “Desperate Tennessee residents are frantically crying out for help, as the small town they once loved and cherished is being completely overrun by hordes of nasty Muslim migrants.”


     

    A 2017 Freedom Daily story published at least twice claimed "nasty Muslim migrants" from Somalia were taking over a Tennessee town and targeting Christians. Snopes looked at the July 25 version and rated it false, stating, “Based on the evidence we were able to amass, Shelbyville, Tennessee doesn’t have a Somali refugee problem; Freedom Daily, on the other hand, does” (emphasis original):

    As many Americans were left in shock and horror following the Minnesota woman being violently shot down by a Somali Muslim cop, now Somali migrants have set their sights on another American city to invade. Desperate Tennessee residents are frantically crying out for help, as the small town they once loved and cherished is being completely overrun by hordes of nasty Muslim migrants, who have now started targeting local Christians with violent Islamic crimes.

    [...]

    Somali Muslims are proving to be the most violent migrants due to the vicious jihadist-ruled country they’re plucked from before making their way to the United States. Somali Muslims are not only overtaking Shelbyville and forcing Sharia onto the populace, but the city of Minneapolis as well. In addition to the disturbing headlines of the Somali cop gunning down a white woman last week, Somali migrants completely took over a small Minnesota white neighborhood several months back and started threatening to rape and murder females who were standing in their yards. [Freedom Daily, 7/25/17,  11/1/17; Snopes, 7/31/17]

    Michelle Obama “Goes Full-Ghetto” by attending a tour of the Siena Cathedral in a “slutty” shirt.

    An October piece said former first lady Michelle Obama entered an Italian church wearing “a slutty off-the-shoulder top,” claiming she was going “full-ghetto”:

    For the past 8 years, Michelle Obama strutted around like a queen, doing very little work as the First Lady other than running her big fat anti-American mouth. While we’re thankful this piece of work has finally left our White House after making a mockery of our country, what Michelle was caught doing inside a ancient church on Tuesday proves once again just how classless this woman is, who obviously holds herself above all the rules, even in the places of worship that most people revere as the sacred and holy place of God.

    [...]

    Showing up for a tour of Siena Cathedral in Italy looking like she had been up all night partying at a strip club, many people were quite astonished at the amount of skin Michelle was showing, as flaunted a slutty off-the-shoulder top that was a strict violation of the Siena Cathedral’s rules. [Freedom Daily, 10/18/17]

    Headline calls Palestinian people “Cockroaches.”

    A June 2016 piece called Palestinians “cockroaches,” saying they were celebrating a terror attack. [Freedom Daily, 6/8/16]

    "OF COURSE….Muslim Machete Attacker Was Here On Green Card From Africa"

    [Freedom Daily, 2/23/16]

    “ISLAM Needs to Be ERADICATED From the Earth.”

    Freedom Daily published a post about an ISIS propaganda video headlined “What This Muslim Father Did to His Son Proves ISLAM Needs to Be ERADICATED From the Earth.” [Freedom Daily, 2/24/16]

    Michael Brown’s family “Hit The Ghetto Lottery.”

    A July piece described a settlement given to the family of  Michael Brown --  a black teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer in 2014 while unarmed -- as a win of “the ghetto lottery.” The post went on to attack Brown’s family for having the “audacity” to argue that “the death of the two-bit thug” would deprive the family of potential wages. From the July 2 article:

    Take note America, In today’s America if you are a minority and raise a two-bit thug who gets himself killed for intimidating people and attacking a police officer the government will reward you with so much money that you will be able to fly around to exotic locations on your very own private jet. This is what Obama must have meant by the slogan “Hope and Change.”

    [...]

    Although their son didn’t even live with them, they actually had the audacity to argue that the death of the two-bit thug that they raised deprived them of financial support through his future potential wages. Umm, you won’t make 1.5 million dollars working at McDonald’s, if he was even qualified to work there.

    [...]

    This is Obama’s America. This is what we, as a nation, got for electing a race baiting charlatan with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. We are in serious trouble when you raise a kid to be a two-bit thug and the government, out of fear of looting and riots, takes it upon its self to reward you with a 1.5 million dollar payday because society had to fix the problem you raised. [Freedom Daily, 7/2/17; The Associated Press, 6/23/17]

    Man “driving a van [that] plowed through a group of Muslims” gave them a “taste of their own medicine.”  

    A June piece said that “political correctness and liberal politicians are providing to be Islam’s final advocate,” while “one resident finally snapped” and attacked Muslims outside a mosque:

    Authorities have done little to prevent terror attacks from plaguing Europe. Muslim refugees continue to flood places like the U.K. and Germany, while citizens continue to be brutally victimized with terror attacks, as political correctness and liberal politicians are proving to be Islam’s biggest advocate. As the U.K. continues to be targeted in recent months, one resident finally snapped and decided to give Muslims a brutal taste of their own medicine after what he did to a group of Muslims who had gathered for prayers outside their mosque a little after midnight last night. [Freedom Daily, 6/19/17]

    “Americans aren’t the ones who should run and hide and live like victims, it’s Muslims who need to be afraid. They don’t run this show anymore.”

    An October piece cheered a Louisiana sheriff-turned-lawmaker for “sending a message that … Muslims who need to be afraid”:

    Finally, someone has come out and given an assertive directive Americans have been desperate to hear for eight years. With a new sheriff in town, this former sheriff is empowered to give blunt advice like this rather than apologies. While it may seem like an impossibility to cleans the country of Islam, it’s a lot more feasible than loving terrorist out of committing acts of terror. More importantly, it’s sending a message that Americans aren’t the ones who should run and hide and live like victims, it’s Muslims who need to be afraid. They don’t run this show anymore. [Freedom Daily, 10/15/17]

    Sesame Street is “threatening indoctrination” by showing children “a heaping spoonful of Islamic propaganda.”

    An April 2016 piece criticized the TV show Sesame Street for “having a Muslim woman teach young girls about female empowerment”:

    Instead of sticking with basic education like numbers, the alphabet, and the occasional sing-along about treating others with kindness, the adored children’s program is kicking off their near 50-year run with perhaps the most threatening indoctrination yet. One-upping controversial episodes on topics including HIV, death, and Katy Perry’s barely-there wardrobe, the puppet-laden television show just gave our children a heaping spoonful of Islamic propaganda.

    [....]

    Having a Muslim woman teach young girls about female empowerment is like having a slave teach a free people about emancipation. How can one who is still chained speak of freedom? There is no personal experience to backup their claims. Even more so, they are the definition of a bound servant who believes they are free. [Freedom Daily, 4/10/16]

  • Google AdSense is sponsoring fake news about the Texas church massacre

    Google’s AdSense, along with Revcontent and content.ad, are helping to fund fake news about the shooting

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Google is continuing to allow the monetization of fake news via its advertising network AdSense, this time surrounding the November 5 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX. Advertising networks Revcontent and content.ad are also featuring advertisements on fake news stories about the attack.

    On November 5, a gunman opened fire and killed at least 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, TX. The alleged gunman, Devin Patrick Kelly, was court martialed while in the Air Force in 2012 on charges of “assaulting his wife and child” and has been accused of stalking ex-girlfriends. Law enforcement officers are now saying that the shooting was related to “a domestic situation.”

    A Media Matters search found that Google’s AdSense supplied advertisements for many websites pushing the fake news that Kelly was a member of the antifascist group antifa, with many seeming to base their pieces on a fake news article from prominent fake news website YourNewsWire. Those websites included Real Farmacy, USN Politics, myinfonews.net, Clear Politics, SBVNews, RedStateWatcher, and TruthFeed.

    Some of these websites that were using AdSense, such as Clear Politics and SBVNews, also carried advertisements from content.ad, while TruthFeed also featured advertisements from Revcontent. Other websites not using AdSense that pushed the baseless claim, such as Conservative Fighters, The Conservative Truth, and borntoberight.com, featured advertisements from Revcontent or content.ad instead, including the YourNewsWire piece (that article went viral, drawing at least 235,000 Facebook engagements within almost 24 hours of the attack, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, and was shared on gun parts manufacturer Molon Labe Industries’ Facebook page). 

    Another false claim about the shooting came from Freedum Junkshun, a “satire” website run by a man whose made-up stories have been used by fake news websites to misinform. It claimed that the shooter “was an atheist” on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee. That article was funded via advertisements from both AdSense and content.ad. And fake news website Freedom Daily, which has repeatedly violated AdSense’s rules against race-based incitement of hatred, published the false claim that the shooter was a Muslim convert named Samir Al-Hajeed. AdSense advertisements funded that article.

    It isn't just Google's advertising service that is struggling with how to handle fake news; among the top Google search results of Kelly’s name following the attack were tweets and a video that also baselessly claimed he was a member of antifa. YouTube, which Google owns, also prominently featured a video pushing the false claim as one of the top results for the alleged shooter’s name.

    In early November, a Google senior executive testified before Congress that the company had “taken steps” to demonetize misrepresentative websites. Yet the fact that multiple websites are using AdSense to monetize misinformation about the Texas mass shooting via AdSense signals otherwise. Indeed, AdSense, along with Revcontent and content.ad, have generally become the advertising networks of choice for those who push fake news. And this comes amid continuing criticism of Google’s inability to not feature misinformation during or after crisis events. These companies clearly have a long way to go to fix their misinformation problem.