Overseas Fake News Publishers Use Facebook’s Instant Articles To Bring In More Cash

While some mainstream publishers are abandoning Facebook’s Instant Articles, fake news sites based overseas are taking advantage of the format — along with also in some cases Facebook itself is usually earning revenue by their false stories.

BuzzFeed News found 29 Facebook pages, along with also associated websites, in which are using Instant Articles to help their completely false stories load faster on Facebook. At least 24 of these pages are also signed up with Facebook Audience Network, meaning Facebook itself earns a share of revenue by the fake news being read on its platform.

Launched in 2015, Instant Articles offer a way for publishers to have their articles load quickly along with also natively within the Facebook mobile app. Publishers can insert their own ads or use Facebook’s ad network, Audience Network, to automatically place advertisements into their articles. Facebook takes a cut of the revenue when sites monetize with Audience Network.

“We’re against false news along with also want no part of in which on our platform; including in Instant Articles,” said an email statement by a Facebook spokesperson. “We’ve launched a comprehensive effort across all products to take on these scammers, along with also we’re currently hosting third-party fact checkers by around the planet to understand how we can more effectively solve the problem.”

The spokesperson did not respond to questions about the use of Instant Articles by spammers along with also fake news publishers, or about the fact in which Facebook’s ad network was also being used for monetization. The articles sent to Facebook by BuzzFeed News were later removed by the platform. The company also removes publishers by Instant Articles if they’ve been flagged by third-party fact-checkers.

BuzzFeed News was quickly able to locate false stories in which use Instant Articles by searching Facebook for keywords related to fake stories, such as, “Update: Cop Who Arrested Malia Obama Found Dead Under Suspicious Circumstances.” The Facebook search results showed multiple versions of in which same hoax, along with also many of the stories had the lighting bolt icon indicating they were Instant Articles.

Of the 16 posts using Instant Articles, all although one had at least one ad delivered by Facebook’s own advertising network. Many had two or three. This particular means Facebook made money by the hoaxes being spread on its platform.

Some of the websites using Instant Articles for fake news are owned by a man named Ergyn Gashi in Serbia. He did not respond to requests for an interview. Domain registration records show in which he owns 33 English-language news domains with names like lovenative.us along with also thebestnews.us.

The design of Instant Articles has the effect of obscuring information about a news source in which could be used to help evaluate the content, such as the original URL. Once an Instant Article is usually loaded by a user, they are also invited to read additional stories by the same publisher. This particular means additional false stories are promoted to a reader once they load 1 Instant Article by a fake news site.

At the same time fake news publishers are monetizing Instant Articles, legitimate publishers in which Facebook initially partnered with are abandoning the feature, according to recent research by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

When the feature was launched in May 2015, in which was touted as way to help publishers perform better on Facebook along with also allow them to bring in extra ad dollars. although use of Instant Articles has fallen among the news organizations Facebook initially partnered with, according to the Tow Center. Researchers analyzed 2,308 posts in a 24-hour period along with also found in which 38 of 72 partner publishers did not publish 1 story as an Instant Article.

in which doesn’t mean the feature is usually being abandoned. In June of last year, Facebook said in which has 10,000 publishers worldwide using Instant Articles, up by 9,000 in April.

To register for the Instant Articles feature, publishers must submit 10 articles for manual review by Facebook, along with also the content must adhere to the platform’s community standards. The company also specifically forbids publishers of fake news by using Instant Articles. The guidelines for putting ads in Instant Articles are even more stringent. The company says in which declines an application to place ads in Instant Articles if in which finds “content in which features or promotes attacks on people or groups.”

The company did not comment on how the publishers along with also articles identified by BuzzFeed News slipped through the approval process, although said in which works constantly to improve its systems.

Jane Lytvynenko is usually a reporter for BuzzFeed News along with also is usually based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.

Contact Jane Lytvynenko at jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com.

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