Pants on fire! Fake information brings big dangers

Fake news is just the beginning. Recent headlines about the influence of fabricated news on the U.S. election signal a big problem, especially for marketers, says Wesley Young at Search Engine Land. False information is being used to manipulate consumer behaviour, business behaviour, and even the behaviour of software, he says.

One problem with fake news is that it often outperforms real news in terms of traffic and engagement. Don’t be tempted to follow the mantra that “all publicity is good publicity.” Fake news undermines trust in any associated content.

Another problem with fake news is defining it, says Young. Publishers like Facebook and Google are finding that writing algorithms that identify fake news is more difficult than blocking sites that feature porn, hate speech or illegal drug sales. With editorials, commentary, satire, and contradicting data, news, as a category, is not black and white.

Marketers should insist that their advertising messages not be displayed in a way that supports or associates with fake news, says Young. While programmatic advertising options that filter out controversial inventory are limited now, that will change as the year gets underway.

Fake news is not the only danger lurking out there for unwary marketers. Here’s a bunch of other ways that false information can erode customer trust, waste money and damage reputations:

• Fake listings
• Fake ads
• Bogus billing and invoices
• Fake reviews
• Phantom bids
• Fake websites and audiences.
• False URLs

Young discusses each of these scams in his full blog at Search Engine Land. It’s well worth a look. As he says, losing trust hurts everyone. Stay alert to all the new ways fake information is being used, and avoid headaches and wasted dollars down the road.