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Friday 20 January 2017

'Waterford Whispers' fears Facebook 'fake news' crackdown

Published 23/11/2016 | 06:40

Chief executive of Whispers Media and owner of WWN Colm Williamson told the Irish Independent that Facebook and Google accounts for 25pc of the site’s revenue and that it would be “devastating” if it was taken away.
Chief executive of Whispers Media and owner of WWN Colm Williamson told the Irish Independent that Facebook and Google accounts for 25pc of the site’s revenue and that it would be “devastating” if it was taken away.

Irish satirical website Waterford Whispers News (WWN) is worried for the future after Facebook announced last week that it would crack down on fake news.

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The move by the social media giant comes after a number of false stories circulated the globe in the run up to the US election.

Facebook gave no indication as to how it would differentiate between fake news and satire, but said it would “disrupt fake news economics”.

Chief executive of Whispers Media and owner of WWN Colm Williamson told the Irish Independent that Facebook and Google accounts for 25pc of the site’s revenue and that it would be “devastating” if it was taken away.

“Neither Facebook nor Google has indicated that satire will be included under the tag of fake news. In fact, in the seven years WWN has been with Facebook and Google, they have never reached out to us in a business sense, despite us being operating as a business since 2013. We’re a small crew that scrapes by, month to month,” he said.

Mr Williamson said that his website delivers real news with a satirical slant.

“‘The Onion’, ‘The Daily Mash’ and several other satire sites are also in a similar position as they also employ very talented people, people that also rely on wages, wages that are generated by advertising, advertising that is controlled by Facebook and Google.

"Our hands are shackled.”

Satirical websites are not the main target of Facebook’s crackdown, but may suffer.

Facebook is introducing stronger detection tools for fake news that will identify it before users report it.

The social media giant is also exploring the idea of labelling stories that have been identified as false. Third-party fact-checking agencies may also be drafted in to help deal with the growing problem.

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