Helping Your Client Navigate Fake News

Fake News Alert

For many organizations, engaging with customers and journalists online is a central part of their communication strategy. A strong social media presence allows brands to build advocacy and loyalty by speaking directly with their consumers.

However, the proliferation of misinformation online has made social media a more perilous place for companies. One wrong like, share or comment from a company on an unscrupulous site or profile can disintegrate trust between brands and their audiences. Companies must be cautious and discerning while also reacting to current events and engaging with users in near-real time.

It’s our job as public relations professionals to help our client partners build and retain relationships with their audience, both on traditional and social media. We must help guide our clients’ interactions online and work to keep communication authentic and inoffensive. The question we face, however, is how to separate the real from the fake and teach our clients to do the same.

Luckily, we are not alone in the fight for truth. Several major news organizations, social media platforms and technology companies have joined us in the fight to increase transparency online and combat the barrage of misinformation. Check out three news tools below that can help public relations professionals build trust for their brand and avoid getting caught by fake news.

The Trust Project

The Trust Project is an international coalition of news organizations, digital platforms and search engines working to increase transparency in journalism. Founder Sally Lehrman believes that the increase of online “principle-free enterprises” providing biased and inaccurate information has blurred the lines between traditional news, sales pitches and hyper-partisan propaganda. Project partners include The Economist, Italy’s La Repubblica and La Stampa, The Washington Post, Google, Facebook, Bing and Twitter.

The consortium members follow eight principals designed to increase transparency and help the public identify accurate and credible news. Content from trustworthy sites earn the “trust mark,” a logo that appears on webpages that have met the criteria set out by the Trust Project. Each trust mark is associated with a machine-readable signal to news distribution platforms via a “tag” embedded in the HTML code. The Trust Project has worked with Schema.org, a community that creates and maintains vocabularies to support structured data on the Internet, to make sure that trust indicators integrate with the main standard for metatagging information.

Fact Check Label

In addition to being a member of the Trust Project, Google built a Fact Check label for stories that appear in Google News searches. This label identifies stories that have been fact checked by trusted news publishers and fact-checking organizations. For articles that contain public claims, the label will identify who made the claim and who it was fact checked by.

Since Google just aggregates third party fact checkers, it is possible that multiple organizations could fact check the same claim and come to different conclusions. However, Google’s goal is to help readers make more informed decisions, rather than provide a definitive judgement on what is factual.

Google first rolled out their fact check tag in April 2016 for select countries, but announced in October 2017 that they would make the Fact Check label available everywhere.

Ad Verification

In an effort to increase transparency, Facebook has created a portal that allows users to see if they liked or followed Russian propaganda accounts on Facebook or Instagram between July 2015 and August 2017. The concern over “fake news” hit a fever pitch around the 2016 election and the revelation that thousands of Russian propaganda pages and accounts, masquerading as U.S. citizens, shared divisive social and political content on Facebook in an effort to meddle in the U.S. election.

This announcement comes on the heels of Facebook’s recent decision to verify political ad buyers in federal elections, requiring them to reveal correct names and locations. Facebook will now require anyone buying political ads to reveal their real name and location.

The tool will launch by the end of the year and can be accessed through the Facebook help center.

If you’re looking to up your social media game or incorporate your social platforms into the strategic growth of your business, give us a call.