back to article Facebook will deny ads to repeat promoters of fake news

After last year's disabling of users' ability to block ads, Facebook plans to reject ads from those who promote fake news. In November 2016, CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially downplayed his company's role in distributing misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election. "Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes …

  1. DougS Silver badge

    Cue the inevitable

    Complaints by people on the fringes that the "third party fact checking sites" are biased when the fake news they're dumb enough to actually believe gets rejected.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Cue the inevitable

      What do you mean from the fringes.

      What do you think will happen when the WaPo publishes multiple articles that they have to retract. That would mean Zuck gets a call from Bezos. Oh wait, that was the NYT that is trouble and is also getting sued by Sarah Palin for their attack on her. (And IMHO, she's going to win or NYT settles out of court which is also a win)

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Cue the inevitable

        The fact that once in a while a story is retracted shows journalism at work - when something doesn't follow their rules for sourcing etc. they pull it. Has Alex Jones ever retracted one of his nutjob conspiracy theories? He probably still thinks Obama was born in Kenya, the Clintons had 50 people murdered, and that pizza shop was running a child sex ring out of its nonexistent basement.

        I know the Trump defenders like to point out "ooh, CNN had to retract this story, Washington Post had to retract that story" etc. as a way to try to muddy the waters and claim ALL negative stories about Trump are fabricated fake news. Sorry, their unretracted stories that are the product of good journalism continue to add a little bit more paint to the canvas of Trump's eventual downfall day by day. I know you don't buy that, but even what Trump's team admits to versus their original statements that denied even talking to or knowing Russians has to worry you a little bit deep down that maybe your guy isn't who you thought he was.

        Not to say there aren't fake news sources on the left, but it certainly isn't coming from the Washington Post.

        1. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: Cue the inevitable

          I haven't yet heard any news about Trump so far from the so-called "mainstream" media that weren't fake in some way. Of course, I stopped paying attention after I realized that it was all propaganda, so the stories I hear are the ones that bubble up from the swamp and make it into my consciousness, like the other day when a story here on The Reg said that Trump was a racist (fake) and that he had expressed support for white supremacists or Nazis (fake) while condemning anti-fascist protestors (fake; Antifa is anything but). The whole Russian connection was fake; while reports that some of his statements about never having met any Russian ever can be proven false, the underlying premise of each of those stories is that it supports the collusion thing, which is fake.

          Some of the news is fake by means of a lie of omission, in that same manner. Some is outright fake, and some is partial truth that still amounts to fake news by that bit which isn't fake. Partial truths make the lies told at the same time seem more believable. Then there's the presentation of things as being scandalous and terrible when they're not, like Trump exercising his lawful authority to fire subordinates as he sees fit (something every president is entitled to do). It's not fake news in the sense that he didn't do it; it's fake in the sense that they're presenting it as wrongdoing when it isn't.

          The hookers peeing on the bed was fake. Trump being a pussy-grabber is fake. Trump insulting a reporter's disability is fake. Trump having been under investigation by Comey is fake. Trump imposing a ban on Muslims entering the country is fake. Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then, but the media actually reporting honestly would be even more of a surprise to me than finding an acorn would be to the pig. I am sure that there have been SOME stories out there that were accurate, just by the law of numbers, but they're not the "blockbuster" ones the left thinks are so good that they're trying to use them to destroy Trump (which really should be the most irrefutable claims, not the most easily refuted). If the media had to issue retractions every time a story was misleading, factually incorrect, or otherwise not up to normal standards of journalism, the retractions segment would exceed the length of the news segment on any given day.

          Alex Jones doesn't (presumably; I really don't know much about his show, having never heard it) issue retractions because he's probably not taken seriously by anyone, and in the US, you have to show that there was harm done by the libel/slander and that it was likely to be believed before you can win a case. It's a good deal harder than it is in the UK to make a successful claim, particularly if the person targeted is a public figure.

          As such, he's probably never presented with serious threats of lawsuits over his claims; even if the standards for libel or slander in the US are met, the people he targets probably don't want to elevate such outlandish statements to the level of serious consideration by responding to them. I'm merely guessing; I can't tell you why people are not suing the daylights out of Jones if he is making so many crackpot statements. Your guess is as good as mine. The point is that retractions are not a sign of serious journalism as much as they are a sign of fear of lawsuits from the people they libeled, and if a serious news outfit gets things wrong enough to make them fear lawsuits from public figures even in America's legal system, and it starts to become a pattern rather than an occasional "oops,:" it may be indicative of a broader problem.

          Whether Trump is "brought down" or not will have nearly nothing to do with his own actions. Reality hasn't been a part of any of this so far; it's all about "we know that guy sucks really really bad, so even if the facts aren't exactly right, let's go with it, 'cause we gotta get him, and we know that he probably thinks all that bad stuff we accuse him of but can't prove, because he's the embodiment of all evil and automatically will do the most evil thing in every single case." It will be about whether the people believe the fake news or not, with the actual truth playing an ancillary role at best.

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          @DougS Re: Cue the inevitable

          You seem confused.

          Posting a retraction is one thing.

          Clearly violating any semblance of journalistic ethics is another.

          To be clear, I'm not what you call a 'Trump Defender' but rather I am an objective observer and the MSM / Press have gone way over to excuse lapses of ethics as a way to justify an attack on Trump.

          The numbers don't lie.

          And to be clear... lapses to the point where three 'reporters' are forced to resign. Producers who are injecting their personal bias in an effort to distort the news, in order to driver their agenda?

          And then there's the reverse. Killing a story so that most don't see what is happening.

          But hey! Be in denial.

        3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Cue the inevitable

          The fact that once in a while a story is retracted shows journalism at work

          Concur - show me one case when Breitbart has retracted a story voluntarily.

          1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

            Re: Cue the inevitable


            Show me where Breitbart has to fire or ask for the resignations of multiple reporters for grossly violating their ethics and placing the paper in legal jeopardy.

            It cuts both ways mate.

            The irony is that Brietbart scores higher in terms of integrity when it comes to reporting than WaPo, CNN or the NYT.

            The Daily Caller has broken several key stories and hasn't had any lapses of ethics.

            And to be fair, how many stories has the WSJ had to retract, not that many...

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Cue the inevitable

              How in the world does Breitbart score "higher in terms of integrity"? Because they don't admit when they're caught posting bullshit like reputable journalists do, but instead double down on it and their clueless readers lap it up? Anyone who thinks they have better journalistic ethics than the Washington Post or New York Times is so far gone they're beyond all help, or hope.

              They basically exist as a shill for the hard right. If Trump "shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue" like he said during his campaign, Breitbart would have his back and find a way to blame democrats or RINOs for it.

              1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

                Re: Cue the inevitable


                You really don't know when to quit.

                I suggest you actually go over the history of some of the articles that were written by the WaPo and NYT prior to the election.

                Editorials were written justifying that it was ok for journalists to set aside their ethics and to push an agenda especially when it went after Trump.

                There's more, but clearly you have an agenda or prejudice so it would be a waste of time.

                The fact that is not in question is that the news coverage of Trump is intentionally negative.

                Funny thing. While the MSM roasted Trump about denouncing violence on both sides. There's hardly a mention that it took 3 days for Pelosi to denounce the violence of Antifa.

                I suggest you google Kass and Chicago Tribune. Today's editorial is a good one, even though I don't agree with everything he says.

  2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Simpler option

    Just stop people "sharing" links. Make them stick to only stuff the upload themselves.

    That way only the morons and eye-swivelling loons who take part in such news spreading, and their few friends, will ever see the crap.

  3. Chris G Silver badge


    As to whom the 'trusted' third party fact checkers are and why they should be trusted?

    Everyone has an axe to grind and is biased to some degree.

    I'm a little uncomfortable with the way censorship by any other name is creeping in, Google can bias it's searching to keep things way down the results or exclude things altogether, we all know the different news outlets have their own bias including much of the alternative press who are supposed to be committed to truth.

    It seems the more connected we are the less informed we are.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      Well at some point you have to trust someone. You believe the Earth is round, why? You've never been in orbit to see that with your own eyes, you basically consider that a fact because "everyone says so". (Yes I know it is possible to prove it using math, but let's assume you're an average person for whom that math is beyond their abilities)

      If you have multiple third party sources, and they all claim "Obama was born in Hawaii" as a fact, then Facebook would bury any links to 'news' claiming otherwise. Now there may be fringe fact checking sites that claim he was born in Kenya, and others claiming Trump had sex with 12 year old girls in the company of Jeffrey Epstein. If you trust one of those as an arbiter of your version of facts, you won't be happy with Facebook's list of third party sources, I imagine.

      The problem will come in when eventually they're proven wrong about something. Someone will come up with a birth announcement for Obama on a Kenyan newspaper dated 1960, or video of Trump having sex with a 12 year old, and will insist because ONE THING was proven otherwise that the whole fact checking thing is slanted and some alternative source that was correct all along about that should be used instead. OK, it wouldn't be something huge like that, but even if it was something meaningless they'll try to elevate it and say that all facts should be considered suspect, even the political equivalents of the Earth being round.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      @Chris G Re: Curious

      And this is something that I alluded to above.

      Of course DougS is trying to justify it.

      CNN Has lost the trust of the people, So to has NYT and WaPo.

      We have to look back over 100 years to see the whole Yellow Journalism play out to understand how this could happen.

      The problem is that people are unable to discern which sources are credible and which sources are not. Even within the MSM.

      Case in point. Democrats called the rally in Berkley a 'White Supremacist' march, yet, the leader of the rally wasn't white. The rally claims to be anti-violence. And they were peaceful yet Antifa shows up and attacks the protesters. Rather than condemn the violence, the elected Democrats that tried to shut down the rally are silent. Yet you don't see that on the news.

      The fact that elected officials don't even know who is doing what is troubling.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: @Chris G Curious

        They haven't "lost the trust of the people", in fact the New York Times is seeing record subscription rates. You wouldn't know that, because Trump and Breitbart are peddling the lie that the New York Times is "failing".

        The hard right has been busy redefining what a "fact" is for so long they've actually got you thinking Breitbart is better journalism than real newspapers with real journalists, not some trashy internet rag designed to stoke the fires of partisanship. The ones you list have some liberal slant, but nowhere NEAR the slant Breitbart has! When you get spoon fed lies from the hard right long enough, you start to believe the crap Breitbart is slinging is true, and then everything else is "fake news" by comparison. Even Fox must look like it suffers from liberal bias once you spend enough time with Breitbart. You're one step away from Trump's favorite news source, the National Enquirer. Might as well go all the way!

        1. TheElder


          Milo Yiannopoulos. The Nazi-fetishizing former Breitbart staffer who co-wrote the white-supremacist article described above can thank Bannon, who has called his work "valuable," for launching his career. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, called Yiannopoulos "brave" and said he was a "phenomenal individual" in November 2016


        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          Re: @Chris G Curious


          You have a selective windowing of the data.

          Did you read the articles about the drop in subscriptions around the time of the election and read some of the editorials in the NYT lamenting the fact that they lost the trust of their readers? Oh yeah baby, you can't handle the truth.

  4. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

    So... Is the Zuck going to block FB ads too? ;)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and to label lies"

    Who defines whether a story is a lie or not?

    What's to stop Facebook labelling every story against Facebook as lies?

    Who censors the censors?

    1. TheElder

      Who defines whether a story is a lie or not?

      Being able to count works fairly well.

  6. Haku

    So now they'll only post fake news for the lulz or propaganda instead of financial gain?

    Yeah, that'll work out just fine.

  7. Bucky 2

    What, specifically, makes news "fake"?

    For example: What's the status of sensationalism in headlines? Language targeted toward creating an emotional response is not news, certainly. Is it appropriate to behave as though it were? Is news mixed with non-news still news?

    What about lazy reporting, like just sort of summarizing press releases? That kind of thing is certainly printed as though it were news. Does it count as "fake"?

    What about even lazier reporting, like when reporters simply quote people, and then do nothing to identify what, if anything, was true about what that person said? I don't know a single US news agency that does not think of this as the beginning and the end of their responsibility to the public. Is it okay to let third parties to "fact checks?"

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: What, specifically, makes news "fake"?


      How about the story that links Sarah Palin's 'map' identifying liberal politicians in AZ to the shooting of Gabby Gifford well after the fact that was well documented that there was nothing tying the two together?

      Meaning that the NYT was guilty of slander/ libel when they went after Palin.

      Personally, I thought the porn parity of Palin was funny, but here the NYT crossed the line.

      Then there's Ana Navarro who's claiming Trump has dementia. Sorry, but while he may be a Queens guy , Ana Navarro isn't qualified to make a medical opinion.

      There's more, but you get the idea.

      Its amazing how many attack Trump for saying something, only a couple of weeks later, agreeing with him.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: What, specifically, makes news "fake"?

        Then there's Ana Navarro who's claiming Trump has dementia.

        There is a much simpler explanation to his outbursts. He is on prostate medication which as a side effect improves hair growth. This is according to HIS doctor and is in the public domain (public interview, quoted by most newspapers at the time). I am quoting EXACTLY what he said a year ago - you can find the ref in the newspapers yourself if you want to.

        It takes 5 minutes to look up which prostate medications have that as a side effect as well as what other side effects do they have.

        If you are too lazy the answer is testosterone derivatives and the side effects at a dose which is sufficient to induce extra hairiness are burst of rage, difficulty to control aggression, etc. Quite evident too.

        Dementia - that one was a (TM) of Ronnie the Ray Gun. Trump so far has not exhibited the primary symptom, namely increase of federal grants for dementia study by an order of magnitude - you can plot them in the 80-es and they correlate 90%+ with Ronnie's "issues" in his later years.

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          @Voland Re: What, specifically, makes news "fake"?

          There's an even more simple explanation. He's just being Trump. And he's from Queens if memory serves.

          But you just proved my point that your liberal bend is showing. :-)

          The funny thing... Trump on the same day as Charlottesville denounces violence on both sides.

          He gets hammered for saying that and that he's making a moral equivalency between the left and the right. Yet the reality, he was doing no such thing.

          He then two days later clarifies his statement and condemns specifically the white supremacists. The press and MSM criticizes him for being two days too late.

          Now we have the rally in Berkley where peaceful 'pro free speech' rally members were violently attacked by Antifa member. Keep in mind that there were other protesters (protesting free speech???) that were non-violent until Antifa showed up.

          Some in the MSM are reporting on it, yet we don't see Nancy Pelosi or other Democrats speaking out about the violence on the left. No question of moral equivalency but that there is violence.

          Seems the 'demented' POTUS yet again is correct when he denounced both sides.

          So I have to ask which politicians are showing signs of dementia and denial?

          The simple truth. Trump says something... regardless of how silly it could be... and people attempt to find hidden meaning that he never attempted to communicate. And they condemn him.

          And you're also confusing dementia and Alzheimer. Which is why you shouldn't attempt to play doctor.

          1. TheElder

            What, specifically, makes news "fake"?

            Truth or lack of same.


    Belief Politics and the freedom to be wrong.

    Are you going to allow Google, Facebook, twitter and other private companies to disappear because they claim dinsaurs did not exist. Or is it going to pass fact checking?

    Are you going to disappear holocaust deniers?

    What about Armenian Genocide denialer.

    Are you going to disappear Lukewarmers sites, because disputing established warming facts makes you a shill for big oil.

    Would it not be better to just mark stuff "facts disputed". You may need to block terrorist sites. But if your state is not the target, who is a terrorist and who is Nelson Mandela is opinion and not a fact, it is an opinion and you can argue where the line needs to be, but only if you can see the line.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Belief Politics and the freedom to be wrong.

      And don't forget "the onion". good for a laugh.

      Facebook - World Police!

      ZUCKERBERG - F Yeah!

      making the world safer, for HIS AD SPAM!

      (or something)

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    If I get this right then "fake news" pages will not be allowed advertising. What will stop them from embedding ads in their pages as links? Or as part of the story? Will they ban or bury those commercial sites that reference the "fake news"

    Then as others point out... who, exactly, will define "fake news"?

    This rabbit hole is deeper, me thinks, than Zuck imagines it is.

  10. Alan Brown Silver badge

    FB blocking ad blocking?

    Um... nope. I hardly ever see 'em on there.

    And FBpurity does a pretty good job of weeding the cruft already. This is going to be interesting.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: FB blocking ad blocking?

      You admit to having a FB account?

      LOL. Luser

  11. Palpy

    Pity poor humankind.

    "Over the past year, the Macedonian town of Veles (population 45,000) has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 US politics (sic) websites. These sites have American-sounding domain names such as,,,, and They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.... The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of US display advertising — a declining market for American publishers — goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters."

    (The quote is from Buzzfeed, which I do not trust too much, but similar, independently-researched stories have appeared on the Beeb, NBC, CBS, etc.)

    (But see this image of four headlines. Quite a giggle.)

    Of course this fakery has no real-world consequences, especially on things like fair elections. So let the fake news roll, because, well golly, it's hard to draw precise lines between fabricated lies and factual reporting.

    (For those who have trouble detecting nuances in print, that was sarcasm.)

    We've been here before, but not on this scale -- Internet-scale, I mean. A Macedonian teenager could not really buy a yellow-journalism press in the USA in 1900, let alone make money from it. Radio made it easier for liars and propagandists, certainly. But not as easy as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Even a complete amateur -- a teenager unknown outside his village -- can leverage those platforms. He doesn't have to be Rush Limbaugh, he just has to use a template and a little creative writing.

    So do we ignore the fact that anyone can create "news" that Trump is in the final stages of syphilitic dementia or that the Obamas eat the livers of Baptist children for supper, then create a web page that gets a hundred thousand likes from Facebook partisans, and let the cards fall where they may? Really? Because it's so danged hard to draw a line between facts and the nastiest kind of manipulative bullshit?

    So. I'm genuinely curious, mes amis in the commentard ranks.

    Should we (societally, organizationally) not parse anything on the Internet, although we know that, in democratic societies, fake news will certainly change our systems of governance? Let a thousand flowers bloom, and free speech unfettered forever, and damn the torpedoes?

    Or should we attempt to identify sources and genres of harmful lies and, for instance, label them as such? Or encourage platform curators to ban them? In the name of societal good, much like eugenics or thought-policing?

    Or is there another path?

    (I am very skeptical of education as a panacea -- it appears that education does not decrease polarization when considering even scientific issues, so I would not think it effective in leading humans to agree on objective truth in societal or cultural issues.)

    Personally, I suppose I would favor mounting a small ink-jet cannon on computer screen bezels, and the twentieth time someone clicked on a fake news link the cannon would indelibly tattoo his or her forehead with the words "TOO F***ING STUPID TO VOTE". Which tattoo, of course, would be taken at face value during any election anywhere in the developed or undeveloped world.

    But I jest. I despair, and so I must jest.

    (Must have more beer... which confessional phrase explains this post.)

    However: like a real-time globalized economy, like a human population of 7.5 billion, like the ability to edit the human genome, the ability of a few actors to spread falsity worldwide, almost instantaneously, is a new thing on Earth. How may we best handle this?

    1. TheElder

      Re: Pity poor humankind.

      One of the biggest problems we have now is that there are just too many rats in the cage. When that is done in real experiments and there are too many in the same cage they begin to eat each other. The Internet is just like too many rats in one place.

  12. Richocet

    Most information is fact-checkable

    So there are a few categories to deal with:

    Completely made-up stories designed to fit an agenda / provoke a response / propaganda e.g. the pizza restaurant. Easily disputed but not immediately.

    Facts which have extensive scientific evidence. These can be checked quickly.

    Opinions and ideology which can't really be fact checked.

    Challenges are that there are a significant number of people who reject science or claim it is biased or invalid; and that opinions are often presented with 'facts' which may or may not be correct. IMO ban the whole thing if it contains any false facts even if it also has true facts.

    Given the amount of checks and balances in place within science that remove bias, require experiments, substantial evidence, and peer review by people who also have lots of evidence and expertise in removing bias, looking for mistakes and issues with other people's findings, IMO there is no higher standard that can be applied to fact checking than this. Who else is going to put in that much work or that much rigor?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on hang on !!

    It's Facebook we're talking about here.

    It's all bollocks.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't bother Zuch.

    How about you stop all those crap friend profiles wasting people's time with "Hot females in your area who want to meet and ****."? One reason I walked away from FB, sick and tired of having my "inbox" flooded with crap. Then again I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything less from the social media sewer that is Facebook!

  15. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Systemic bias

    There is a systemic bias against conservativism and especially libertarianism in social media. And it has nothing to do with the 100-to-1 donation imbalance by middle- & upper-management.

    Conservatives & libertarians have a standard response to material which annoys them. They tend to walk away. Maybe they don't return to the site. Maybe they block. Maybe they scan passed. Democrats & socialists tend to want to eliminate the material. So they mark "offensive". They report "abuse". They make sure all of their friends know about it, too.

    So even if the systems to identify problematic content are mechanically neutral, the systemic differences in behaviour are going to create severe imbalances.

    Throw in the fact that the left is now comfortable with assaulting people they don't like on the streets & we appear to be living in interesting times in America.

    1. Richocet

      Re: Systemic bias

      You need to brace yourself for the reality that fact-checking and having a 50% mix of left and right wing ideology, have dramatically different outcomes.

      1. Missing Semicolon

        Re: Systemic bias

        "You need to brace yourself for the reality that fact-checking and having a 50% mix of left and right wing ideology, have dramatically different outcomes"

        ... and ... bias right there.

        That's what has to be guarded against. Your assumption that inherently "left wing ideology" is going to result in a greater chance of truth is a political statement.

        1. Richocet

          Re: Systemic bias

          I didn't say that fact checking would result in more left wing ideology.

          As per my earlier post, facts and ideology are different things.

          People are always going to disagree or argue on ideology to some extent.

          Getting into more detail where plans are proposed and relevant facts reviewed is a different activity.

          Mixing the two leads to serious issues when facts don't align with ideologies, so they are dismissed, ignored, or alternative-facts are used.

          My personal opinion is that ideologies are not going to achieve anything alone, and they are a 1st world indulgence that distracts humanity from solving real problems: unemployment, disease, crime, etc

  16. oneeye

    Do We Really Need Big Tech To Protect Us?

    No, a thousand times NO! This whole "Fake News" thing was made up of whole cloth right after the election as a way of controlling information. Censorship. Plain and simple. It boils down to the fact that the majority are not under the Leftist, and Media's control anymore, and that's a danger to their plans. So, "Fake News", "Hate Speech" "Racism", etc, etc, etc, are all attacks on the fundamental rights of Citizens in the US and other democracies. It's all about trying to control people, and even their thoughts, by creating a chilling effect on any who would disagree. But, be warned leftards, it will come back and bite you too. Because it's plain to normal folks, just who the real threats are.

  17. TheElder

    I haven't heard any news about Trump so far from the so-called media that weren't fake in some way.

    I haven't yet heard anything from Trump so far that the so-called President has said that wasn't fake in some way.

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