HomeTechnologyHow Facebook and Google Fund Disinformation

How Facebook and Google Fund Disinformation

A survey by the MIT Technology Review, based on interviews with experts, data analysis and documents that were not included in the “Facebook papers”, reveals that Facebook and Google pay millions of dollars advertising to finance clickbait players (click traps, in French), fueling the deterioration of information ecosystems.

Facebook has indeed launched its instant articles program in 2015 with a handful of American and European publishers. The company then presented the program as a way to improve article load times and create a smoother user experience.

But it also helped capture Google ads. Before “ Instant Articles “, readers were redirected to a browser. The ad provider, usually Google, would then cash in the ad views or clicks. With the new scheme, explains the MIT Review, the articles open directly in the Facebook application, and are therefore exposed to its own advertising network, Audience Network.

Instant articles quickly fell out of favor with mainstream publishers: for them, the payouts weren’t high enough compared to other forms of monetization available. But this was not true for publishers in southern countries, which Facebook started to accept in the program in 2016.

In 2018, the company said it paid out $ 1.5 billion to publishers and app developers. In 2019, this figure had reached several billion … However, publishing the same article on several pages could even double the number of readers. Click trap farms around the world have grasped this loophole as a strategy, which they still use today.

An internal company document, first reported by MIT Technology Review in October, shows Facebook was aware of the problem as early as 2019. The author, former Facebook data scientist Jeff Allen, had discovered that these tactics had enabled click trap farms in Macedonia and Kosovo to reach nearly half a million Americans a year before the elections of 2020.

Up to 60% of domains in Instant Articles were using the spam writing tactics employed by trap farms clicks, according to the report. Allen notes, however, that Facebook has since made major efforts to correct the problem.

Google is also guilty, also points out the MIT Review. Its AdSense program has indeed fed farms based in Macedonia and Kosovo that were targeting the American public in the run-up to the presidential election of 2016. And it is also AdSense which encourages the new actors of click traps on YouTube to publish clicky content and viral disinformation.

The fact remains that today, many bait farms Clicks still rely on both instant article monetization and AdSense, receiving payments from both companies, laments the MIT Review.

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