As election season comes to a close, many are still looking up information about the results. Earlier today those searches turned up some interesting results are Google surfaced fake election results at the top of the page, even putting those results front and center in Google Assistant. Now the company is making some changes to help prevent fake news from spreading.

According to Reuters, Google is moving to restrict fake news website from using Google’s AdSense ads. It’s unclear when this new policy will take effect, or how Google plans to enforce it, but this couldn’t come at a better time.

Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property.

How would this affect the sharing of fake news? Many websites that spread fake news content are powered by Google’s AdSense ads, relying on them to drive revenue. As posts on those websites go viral, as we’ve seen many times on Facebook especially, those sites gain money from users who visit the site.

Google’s current rules for websites using AdSense block content such as violent content, pornography, or hate speech, but inaccurate news is not listed. That’s what Google aims to change. By cutting those sites off at the wallet, much of the incentive for writing fake news may be taken away, thus limiting the amount of fake news circulating on the web.

Of course, enforcing all of this is going to be another story entirely. As Fil Menczer, a professor of informatics and computing at Indiana University who has studied the spread of misinformation on social media states, Google may have a tough time keeping up what qualifies as a fake news site. He said “it requires specialized knowledge and having humans (do it) doesn’t scale.” We can only hope others will follow Google’s example in stopping the spread of fake news around the web as Facebook also did tonight.

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Ben Schoon

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