May 17, 2017 | Business | by Alexian Chiavegato

How Fake News Is Forcing Google and Facebook to Rebuild Trust

A key part of a publisher’s relationship with their readers is trust. As the line between premium publishers and fake news peddlers starts to blur, it’s more important than ever for publications to build trust with their audiences. False stories are popping up on news feeds and search results everywhere, misleading readers regarding the news of the day. This problem has accelerated in the past several months, and countries around the globe have felt its effects. The fight against fake news has become one of the fiercest battles raging online today.

This problem doesn’t just affect the companies selling advertisements; it can hurt publishers as well. A Gallup poll from September 2016 revealed that, among Americans, trust in the media was at an all-time low: 32 percent of Americans said they trusted news sources in 2016, down 8 percent from 2015. Building trust with a reader is an important part of successful content marketing, and the prevalence of fake news sites is making that goal even harder to achieve.

Two of the biggest players in this battle, and the online publishing industry as a whole, are Facebook and Google. Each company has been under fire lately for allowing misleading content to pollute their platforms. Following last year’s United States presidential election, each company vowed to do more to cut out the problem. Google announced that it would ban websites publishing fake news from its advertising services, and Facebook followed with a similar approach.

Beginning with the 2016 U.S. election, fake news has shaken up the political world, as voters are led to believe false information about one candidate or another. Since then, Facebook has posted advertisements in the United Kingdom, and removed thousands of fake accounts in both the U.K. and France. The social network even went as far as hiring Alex Hardiman, formerly of The New York Times, to, among other things, “continue curbing the spread of false news.

Google is taking action as well, expanding its fact-checking tool to help alert users to the veracity of stories appearing in search results.

With the rise in importance of publishing platforms like Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles, what these companies are doing is having a very real effect on publications. The better platforms perform at protecting readers from fake news, the better they are for the publishers who use them. Social media and search are two of the most prevalent ways for brands to distribute content on the Internet today, and the more these companies do to fight back, the stronger the digital publishing ecosystem will be.

Now is the right time to address this problem, considering the results of a survey done last year by Pew Research, which showed that 38 percent of Americans often get their news from an online source. That number won’t be going down anytime soon, with 50 percent of respondents ages 18 to 29 saying they often get their news online.

Facebook and Google are doing their best, but it’s equally important for publishers to work to rebuild that trust with their own audiences. There are ways for publishers to join the fight, and we’ll share five great ways to start rebuilding trust on next week’s blog.