Mark Zuckerberg talks in front of a screen with his fake ads

Photo via Maurizio Pesce / Flickr (CC-BY) Remix by Jason Reed

Fake news is everywhere on Facebook.

Ev Williams, a co-founder of Twitter and Medium, has a good reason to be interested in what Mark Zuckerberg has to say about deceptive news. But when he went to read Zuck's Facebook post downplaying the fake news crisis, he was more interested in what else he saw on the page.

Right next to Zuckerberg's plan to decrease fake news, there were two sponsored—in other words, paid—ads. One pretended to be an ESPN.com story and implied Tiger Woods had died or permanently retired. 

"It goes to espn.com-magazine.online and attempts to sell a muscle-building supplement using ESPN branding and a fake news story," Williams wrote on Medium.

The second looked like a CNN story claiming the U.S. Congress had "disqualified" Donald Trump and that "he's GONE!" But the link led to an ad for... toe strengthening exercises? 

Fake news, it seems, is not just in your news feed. It's also hiding in the adjacent ad space.

Zuckerberg can make noise about "erring on the side of letting people share what they want," but he's doing it with deceptive ads on the very same page. He's right in saying that the fake news problem is "philosophically complex," but one of the complexities of it is that, philosophically, public companies believe in making money for their shareholders. And money doesn't always equate to truthfulness. 

Earlier this month, Facebook's stock took a dip when CFO David Wehner told investors the company was hitting its limits in terms of ad load—how many ads it can cram onto a page. Ad sales growth was expected to "meaningfully" decline.

How much of that full ad load is deceptive articles pretending to be from real news websites? And how would investors react if those sales all went away? These are questions the social network will have to confront now that it has admitted fake news is a problem.

Promoted Stories Powered by Sharethrough
mark zuckerberg
Why can't Facebook admit that its fake news problem changed the election?
Two days after Donald Trump won the presidency, and with people desperate to explain how every poll-based projection could have been wrong, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed his website's role in the election: "Personally, I think the idea fake news on Facebook... influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," he said on a livestream from the Technonomy conference.
From Our VICE Partners
Group

Pure, uncut internet. Straight to your inbox.

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter!