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Las Vegas was witness to a shooting spree on Sunday (October 1, 2017) with over 500 injured. Resident Geary Danley was identified as the shooter and has been known to have harbored links with extremist groups.
This headline on the morning news feed across Google and Facebook swallowed me whole, making me instinctively click on it. A few hours later, as I continued to follow the developments on the tragedy, I discovered that the earlier post had been removed from search results, long after being paraded as a “Top Story” and a “Trending Topic” across social media. This misinformation — which had gone viral — was supposedly from online forums that are notorious for internet hoaxes and propaganda.
Fake news, fake clicks – basically fraud, was not a totally outrageous phenomenon to a mobile marketing professional like me. It could perhaps use some inspiration from the ad world’s battle with fraud.
But before I delve into the similarities with ad fraud and plausible learnings that can be adopted, let’s understand the motive behind fake news. In one common use case, misinformation and hoaxes are aimed at driving traffic, and subsequent clicks on the website that can ultimately drive ad revenues. In the larger scheme of things, misinformation could be used to further political propaganda and narratives.
Parallel #1 – The Means of Defrauding
Fundamentally, fake clicks have been the biggest driver of fraud across media, whether news (read “social”) or ad fraud. While fake clicks on news articles are aimed at manufacturing traffic, fake clicks on mobile ads are directed at maximizing the chances of stealing precious ad dollars.
Parallel #2 – Need for Regulating the Giants
At a macro-level, both newsrooms and ad worlds have been plagued by the duopoly of Facebook and Google, with self-prescribed standards and half-measures in adhering to industry benchmarks. This has consistently eroded trust within the advertising industry. Akin to the advertising world, the Facebook-Google duopoly owns the dissemination of news to billions of users across the globe and has been responsible for promoting misinformation and manipulating people’s views. It’s a huge antitrust problem — and requires the regulation of the biggest of the biggest technology platforms.
Parallel #3 – User-Generated vs Curated Content
As social platforms with user generated content, Google and Facebook have the responsibility of guaranteeing the authenticity of news and to shut the gates on fake content. On the advertising front, social platforms have found it extremely difficult to control ad placements for reputed brands on multiple occasions. As more user generated content is created, more advertising opportunities arise. This, however, also means that the next ad request could be alongside unsafe content such as an ISIS video or a marijuana drug.
The media industry must learn from ad tech’s battle with fraud. It's all about weeding out fraud by dis-incentivizing fraudsters, says InMobi's @jeaswaramony.
The media industry must battle fake news by deriving inspiration from the fundamental objective of ad tech’s battle with fraud — weeding out fraud by dis-incentivizing fraudsters. Here’s how:
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