The fake news plague has reportedly spread to fact-checking websites.
On fact-checking pages like Snopes and Politifact, fake news ads popped up, with one claiming the First Lady Melania Trump was leaving the White House, according to a report from the New York Times.
The article redirected to a website made to look exactly like Vogue, as part of the fake news campaign. After a few paragraphs, it would drift off into a skin care cream advertising. The fake news popped up on the fact-checking websites thanks to Google’s AdWords system, which automatically places ads based on a target audience.
It’s unclear how the fake news ended up on Snopes and Politifacts. Google did not comment on how the fake news was approved for ads.
“As always, when we find deceptive ad practices on our platforms we move swiftly to take action, including suspending the advertiser account if appropriate,” Suzanne Blackburn, a Google spokeswoman, said.
The spread of fake news has caused public scorn for companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, as tech giants fail to keep up with viral propaganda. Google has pledged to help stop the spread of fake news, but hoaxes have still found a way to slip by the search engine.
An internal Google investigation found that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads across Google’s properties, including in search results, YouTube and Gmail. For fake news peddlers, ads are a useful resource to grow their audience, gathering more eyes to pull the wool over.
Fake news on ads for Google continue to be a problem, with the company saying in January that it had removed 1.7 billion offenders in 2016. In this scenario, the fake news had been to sell products, instead of influencing any elections.
Aaron Sharockman, PolitiFact’s executive director, said they had been aware of the fake news ads on the website for days, and believed Google Adsense was the cause.
“The revenue those advertisements provide is critical to funding a website like ours, but it’s equally important that we do everything we can to make sure the advertisements appearing on our site are not deceptive or intentionally misleading,” Sharockman said in a statement.
He said they’re working with Google to remove the advertisements. Snopes did not respond to a request for comment.
Google started giving publishers control over ads on their sites in February, and added a feature last week specifically to filter out fake news.