It took an election over the Oval Office, but it seems some of the Internet’s biggest companies are now saying, just maybe, they have a role to play in wrangling up false and fake news. Google and Facebook have both announced that they will cut off the advertising revenue for websites that produce fake news.
Here’s how it works.
People create websites with stunning headlines and stories, and then post them to social media. This click-bait then means someone heads over to the website for more information, not realizing it is fake. The banner ads around the page put money in the creator’s pocket. It would seem that the more sensational the news, the more it is shared. The more it is shared, the more it drives the creator to make something even more sensational next time, so that they can cash in on all of the ads.
It is a step in the right direction, and I don’t want to take away from Google and Facebook’s efforts, but this problem is more than just a few bad articles and ads.
Some of the best at it sell products — they sell their own ads (that Google and Facebook can’t cut off), sell books, and more. I want to highlight a few of my favourites:
Joseph Mercola is no stranger to anyone that likes to keep up on their quack doctors. He is big on telling you what will give you cancer. Vaccines are one (plus he thinks they do far more damage than that) Microwave popcorn, tapwater, or cereal. I’d post the links for you to believe, but then he’d get more ad revenue. If you are desperate, a list of some of his most famous cancer causing articles is here. He has almost 1.5 million likes on Facebook, and the book The Wellness Revolution boasts Mercola’s traffic is around 2.5 million visitors a month.
Now, Mercola likes to think he takes the high road. He brags in several places that he does not accept advertising or sponsorship for his website. However he does sell ‘health’ products. And not just your typical fish oils, but also cookware, pet food, tampons, and mattresses. All with his stamp of approval that they won’t cause cancer or kill you – like the other products you buy at the grocery store, drug store or online. The Wellness Revolution states that if Mercola ever wanted to unload his website and online health shop business that goes along with it, he could make $100 million dollars.
Mike Adams of NaturalNews is even worse. Pushing the anti-vaccination movement, comparing the push for vaccinations in society as similar to the Nazi movement in Germany. Every false claim you have ever heard about vaccines has likely been publish by Mike. He has two million likes on Facebook. He’s even been connected to a website that suggested people harm or even kill scientists, researchers and journalists who are in favour of GMOs.
I don’t know Mike personally. Maybe he believes it all under his tin hat, but the fact he boasts 11 million page views per month in his advertising section — and I count 36 links to either buy products from his store, or buy products from other people — it is safe to say the traffic will be profitable.
The famous Food Babe is another. Vani Hari pushes the idea that any chemical in food, shouldn’t be there. Whether or not she’s looked at the periodic table or not, doesn’t matter. Her over one million likes on Facebook help drive the 54 million visitors she gets per year. From there, she tells you about the toxic effect of your latte, beer, or bread, the nutrients that are killed when you microwave food, the benefits of raw milk, and how antiperspirants cause breast cancer.
Luckily, like the others – she has a cure. And she’ll happily help sell it to you. You see, if you can post a link to a product on Amazon, Amazon will happily send you a commission for you at about 8%. You don’t do anything but sign-up and then link to your site. You can always buy books or have Vani speak to your group. All of which, is leading to her making huge money from scary people around the aisle of the grocery store.
These are only a few of the seedy characters that prey on unsuspecting victims. There are plenty more.
Google and Facebook, I congratulate you on trying to cut off income sources for people like these – but they’ve been at it so long that they’ve built a business that doesn’t need the ads. If these companies want to get serious about helping quash fake and false information – they’ll have to do more.
It certainly runs a tricky line from protection to censorship, but right now 2.7 million children are dying every year, because of the fake fears of a GMO rice that could get more Vitamin A into kids in some of the poorest corner of the world. In North America, tens of thousands of people get sick or die from diseases like measles, and whooping cough – all because fake information that scared people away from immunization.
People are getting sick. People are dying.
All because a select few have figured out how to take advantage of people when they are weak, want a cure, and are happy to pay.