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Facebook and Google take action against fake news sites

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Eric Risberg/Associated press

Responding to growing concerns over the spread of misinformation online in the weeks and months before Election Day, Facebook and Google have announced plans to restrict sites that publish fake news from using online advertising.

Facebook updated its advertising policy Monday to make clear that it will not display ads in websites or mobile apps that contain fake news. Such outlets will now be included under the already banned category of misleading, illegal or deceptive sites. Earlier Monday, Google announced a similar policy prohibiting ads from being placed on websites that publish fake news, the Wall Street Journal reported.

‘‘We clearly didn’t get it right, but we are continually working to improve our algorithms,’’ a Google spokeswoman said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.


On Monday morning, The Washington Post reported, the top news link on Google in a search for ‘‘final election results’’ led to a fake news website incorrectly claiming that Donald Trump won both the popular vote and the majority of votes in the electoral college.

The announcements from both internet giants came after Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, denied Thursday that fake news on the social network could have influenced the result of the presidential election. He called it a ‘‘crazy idea’’ and insisted that fake news ‘‘surely had no impact’’ on voters’ decisions.

In a Facebook status posted Saturday, Zuckerberg wrote that more than 99 percent of the content people read on Facebook is authentic, and the fake content that does exist is not limited to one partisan view or to politics in general.

But, he wrote, ‘‘We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.’’


He continued to say everyone would need to proceed carefully to make sure they don’t become ‘‘arbiters of truth.’’

‘‘While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted,’’ he wrote. ‘‘An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual.’’

Some Facebook employees countered Zuckerberg’s statements that fake news probably had no influence on the election, BuzzFeed News reported Monday. A group of ‘‘renegade employees’’ have reportedly formed a task force to call out the fake news being spread through the network and to voice dissatisfaction with the company’s stance on the issue.

In a statement Monday, a representative for Facebook said the company would take ‘‘swift action’’ against sites and apps found to violate its ad policy.

‘‘Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance,’’ the Wall Street Journal reported.