Facebook bans fake news ads, but can the algorithm detect it?

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November 15, 2016 by Paul Dughi

Facebook says it can’t effectively detect fake news or misinformation in its news feed, although it is working to improve it. But apparently Facebook can detect fake news or misinformation in its advertising feed.

Because… it’s now banned fake news publishers from using its ad network. That means fake news now joins gambling, porn, adult products, weapons sales, work-at-home, and spy cameras as unable to place ads.

The ads are screened by an algorithm. Anybody that’s placed ads via Facebook probably knows that already because it flags a lot of content. But its tricky. How can an algorithm figure out whether someone got the facts wrong (unless it was previously flagged)? I’d suggest that humans need to be involved and maybe it’s a community effort that flags misleading or fake information and reports it. If we all fight back against false information, maybe that can have an impact.

Relying on algorithms can produce unpredictable and odd results. We got flagged not that long ago for ads being “too sexual” in nature. Here they are… you decide.

Why were those ads rejected? Nudity and/or cleavage. Umm, OK.

That’s just an example of how difficult this business is. Facebook is certainly one of the biggest tech companies in the world and they have a huge investment in figuring this stuff out, but its algorithms still aren’t perfect.

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Now we knew these ads weren’t sexual in nature and they weren’t advertising adult products. After a review by an actual human, the ads were approved. While frustrating, the system did work.

Here’s how tricky it is though. The ads that were flagged were OK as a post (which we do for free) and not as an ad (which is labelled sponsored).

Facebook updated its audience network policy. Here’s how it reads now:

Don’t integrate or display ads in apps or sites containing content that is illegal, misleading or deceptive, or that promotes regulated goods, pornography, adult products or services, casual dating, violence, weapon sales, online real money games of chance or skill, work-at-home schemes, spy cameras, fake news or anything that falls within any other categories that are prohibited by the Facebook Community Standards, with the exception of apps or sites that display news editorials featuring the above content or if you have our prior written permission.

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