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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Want to Stop Fake News Websites? Go Where The Money Is: Google AdSense & Content Recommendation Widgets

Since the Presidential election two weeks ago, there has been an enormous amount of consternation and hand-wringing over highly-profitable websites that make up completely fake political news stories that spread like wildfire on the Internet.

Buzzfeed, Daily Dot, The New York Times and The Washington Post have recently done feature stories on fake news sites like WorldPoliticus.com, BVANews.com,LibertyWritersNews.com, ABCNews.com.co and 70News.Wordpress.com (a Wordpress.com domain name apparently isn't enough of a tip-off that this isn't a legitimate news source) that are making tens of thousands of dollars per month by focusing on fake stories that accomplish two things:

#1: Make potential readers mad enough to click the headline

and

#2: Share said fake news with their friends

So far, the focus has been on stopping fake news stories from going viral via crackdowns by Facebook's news algorithm and Google search, and also taking more individual responsibility for what you read and share, which CNN's Brian Stelter dubbed, "Refuse to be confused."

While that's certainly an admirable call to action, fake and salacious news will always be irresponsibly spread — just look at the tabloid industry. These fake news websites will just keep making shit up as long as there's money to be had. So I think infamous criminal Willie Sutton had a better idea: "Go where the money is."

If we want fake news to stop misinforming the public, the most efficient way to do that is stop them from making a small fortune off feeding us bullshit. And the best way to do that is to report every website you find that peddles fake news to the people paying them.

While Google and Facebook have both said they are banning fake news websites from their advertising platforms, both companies are famously opaque about how they plan to execute their plans and most publishers don't make any money off Facebook.

The two biggest sources of income for fake news websites are:

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