British News Media Association urged the UK government to investigate urgently how the digital advertising supply chains used by Google and Facebook are impacting the country's news ecosystem.
In its submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into fake news, the association argues that while news publishers are the biggest investors in original news content in the UK, the current digital supply chain rewards the distributors of the content rather than its creators. “Government and regulators cannot ignore forever the impact of the Google-Facebook duopoly on our media landscape,” said the association's chairman Ashley Highfield.
So far the UK media scene has been relatively resilient to the spread of fake news. Yet the online advertising ecosystem that mainly benefits Google and Facebook rather than content originators risks creating the conditions for fake news to thrive also in the UK, the organisation says.
In addition to urging the committee to inquire into the links between digital advertising and the rise of fake news, News Media Association called for a review of Google's and Facebook's status as mere intermediaries, and what additional responsibilities they should bear.
Meanwhile, the News Media Alliance, the US newspaper industry association, also issued a letter to the Culture, Media & Sports Committee, saying that Google’s and Facebook’s response to the spread of fake news has been “underwhelming”, seemingly focusing more on public relations rather than addressing the underlying issues.
As steps forward in dealing with the phenomenon, the organisation said Facebook should prioritise articles from “news organizations and premium publishers“, while Google should have a look at its first-click-free policy, which deprioritises those publishers who charge for content, the association says.
Moreover, the association argues that while genuine news publishers follow ethical principles, online platforms are incentivised by advertising – and that Google and Facebook together control the flow of referral traffic while also being online advertising behemoths. Because of this, they don’t have financial motive to direct users to sites that are less dependant on advertising.
Like its UK counterpart, the News Media Alliance argues that genuine news is the best antidote to false information: “We strongly believe that real news is the remedy to fake news, and measures should be taken by Google and Facebook to ensure this principle is reflected in their business practices.“