Well, color me embarrassed! I thought that “Fake News” was like Hillary claiming that she landed under hostile fire in Bosnia. I found out today it’s not. Well, I mean the Bosnia story was indeed fake news, but it’s not the fake news from the modern fake news industry. Here’s the short version:
What is behind and driving the fake news industry, and it is indeed an industry, is … Google.
Who knew? The company whose motto was “Do No Evil” is behind the fake news industry. Here’s how it works.
In a variety of impoverished Eastern European villages with names like Moldalloveriou, nobody’s got any money. Kids don’t take a lawn-mower around the neighborhood to see if lawns need mowed. Not happening, no money, no lawn mowers, no lawns. Instead they go fishing.
Where they go fishing is Facebook. What they use to bait their hooks is the “clickbait”, the fake news. And over time, they’ve found out what the best clickbait is—stories revealing horrific secrets about public figures. You know the kind, I’m sure.
Imelda Marcos Involved in Necrophilic Love Triangle!
They make up or modify and rewrite news stories and change the headlines until they say things like “Lord Burberry Admits Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS”. They put the fake news up on their own very legitimate-looking website, often made to resemble a real news site.
Then, they toss a link to their blog, with the headline and the accompanying photo, into the normal shark feeding frenzy of any one of dozens and dozens of single-interest groups on Facebook. Groups advocating this. Groups opposing that. Political groups. Racial groups. Ethnic groups. It’s free, it’s easy—make up a Facebook persona, join heaps of groups, make up some clickbait, and start fishing. And if you’re not catching, just change the bait or change the fishing hole. There’s an infinite supply of fake headlines, and thousands of Facebook groups.
So … how does Google fit into this? Well, Google has something called “Ad Sense”. I could sign this blog up tomorrow for Google Ad Sense if I wanted. Not happening.
If I signed up, Google would use its index of my site and all of the comments, and with them it figures out what kind of ads would interest such a peculiar mixture of miscreants and outlaws as comment here. I don’t even know what that would be, ads for a gun that shoots flowers but only at bad people or something. Then, every time my blog loads, it also loads a targeted ad. The deal is that anyone who clicks on an ad on my site, the advertiser pays Google some small money, and me less.
So the poor teenagers in Mustrolloveria sign up with Ad Sense, gin up some clickbait, and pretty soon the money is rolling in. Not a lot of money, to be sure, kids in my neighborhood would sniff and pick up their iPhones … but for teenagers living in Nowhereyouwannastan, likely still at home and contributing to the family economy, it’s big bucks.
Knowing the real problem makes the solution easy. Google needs some new rules. Google Ad Sense already has restrictions on who can get ads. You know, the places they will put ads are restricted, no porn, no racist screeds, no ladies of the evening, no fake news, no revenge sites, no … wait, back up, what?
True. Google already has the rules in its agreements to end fake news sites from getting Ad Sense. All they need to do is to enforce them … but on the other hand, the money coming in from the news factories in Dontunderstan is so nice … plus Google is providing needed employment in a generally economically depressed part of the globe, so that’s not evil … plus it’s valuable foreign currency coming into their country, which every country needs to survive and is also not evil … and the local government of course gets to tax the import of foreign currency, they get their share. Plus it has to be changed from gringobucks into doubloonies or whatever the local currency is, and the bank takes a cut for that. So clearly, far from doing evil, this is the benificent Google providing for individual citizens, governments, and banks in distressed economic situations, and that’s double-plus un-evil … so no reason to cut off those fake news sites …
I have no idea how to pressure Google into fixing this, but fix it they must, and no one else can. Facebook has been talking about trying to stem the tide, but they’re working at the wrong end. It’s the money that drives it. Cut that off and the fake news industry is gone.
Wouldn’t I love to borrow the Donald’s Trumpaphone, call up Sergei Brin, and say “Sergei, my friend,” …
Ah, well, as my daughter says, “In your dreams, dad” … however I will ask if anyone can tweet or send this to someone at Google. It seems like with all their AI experience they could detect a pattern of this kind of fake news fishing and write something to notify them to dry it up.
Plus which it’s win-win for Google. They created the problem, and made a stack of money off of it, and now they earn the world’s thanks for getting rid of the problem … what’s not to like?
Best regards and best of life to you all,
PS—PLEASE QUOTE THE WORDS YOU DISAGREE WITH. It avoids misunderstandings.