Before I say anything on this subject, it’s worth emphasizing that it’s a contentious issue: people don’t agree on what counts as fake news, whether it’s the responsibility of content platforms to filter fake news, and whether it’s even possible. Nevertheless, media organizations and content platforms are working hard to remove obviously fake information, and that’s likely to have an impact on web publishers.
Google has recently updated the content guidelines used by its monitoring teams to include fake news, although they don’t describe it that way.
“We’re explicitly avoiding the term ‘fake news,’ because we think it is too vague,” said Paul Haahr, a senior search quality engineer at Google. “Demonstrably inaccurate information, however, we want to target.”
Google also launched a fact-checking tool to help its users discriminate fact from fake. Facebook typically relies on user reports to identify fake news, but it’s also looking into techniques for automatically promoting high-quality content and is educating its users about how to spot fake content. Facebook, Mozilla, and numerous other tech luminaries are investing in initiatives to reduce the spread of fake news.
The best way to avoid being marked as a purveyor of fake news is to ensure that the content you publish is not, in fact, fake. What counts as fake isn’t always clear, and there’s often no obvious way to discriminate between the fake, the mistaken, and the challenging. But what counts as high-quality, well-researched content is not so difficult to define.
Check Your Facts
First and foremost, if you make a claim in your content, make sure that there’s evidence of its truth. What counts as truth? That’s a deep philosophical question, but a simple rule of thumb is the one Wikipedia uses: something is not fake if a reputable source says so. But that’s a narrow definition, and to it should be added the use of data and evidence. If you make a claim, support it with data.
Link To Reputable Resources
Most online publishers and bloggers don’t have the resources or the expertise to carry out in-depth investigative reporting or scientific investigations. To back-up any claims you make, it is necessary to cite sources that have done the leg work. On the web, that means linking to pages on trusted and reputable sites. High-quality outgoing links are also great for SEO.
Understand The Line Between Provocative And Fake
Provocation drives traffic, and many publishers write deliberately provocative or emotionally manipulative content and headlines. That practice has its own problems, but it’s not necessarily the same as fake news. However, in an effort to drive traffic, it’s all-too-easy to step over the line from provocative to fake. Before hitting publish, take a moment to think about whether a reasonable person would consider the content or headline misleading. Ask yourself whether the headline is supported by the content.
As Facebook, Google, and other content distribution platforms get better at spotting fake news, publishers who rely on traffic and advertising revenue from these platforms need to get better at publishing high-quality content that signals its concern for the facts.