In recent times, the issue of fake content has taken epic proportions. Major social media platforms like Facebook (FB - Free Report) , Twitter (TWTR - Free Report) , Weibo (WB - Free Report) and Alphabet’s (GOOGL - Free Report) Google have frequently come under fire for failing to combat the spread of fake news on their platforms.
Social media giants are playing an expansive role in connecting the world, thanks to the improvement in Internet speed and connectivity as well as solid penetration of mobile devices. Per a survey by Pew Research Center last year, 20% of American adults learn about current affairs through social media and only 16% through newspapers.
However, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018, the usage of social media and aggregators for news is declining, primarily due to trust and privacy issues, and fake news concerns. The report, which surveyed more than 74,000 people in 37 markets, stated that only 23% of respondents trust the news they find on social media.
Fake News Proliferates Faster
Fake news has been responsible for numerous sensitive situations, including terror propaganda and tampering with people’s sentiments about culture, religion and politics.
Per a BuzzFeed report, the top 50 fake news on Facebook was shared, liked and commented on for about 22 million times in 2018.
A study by Campaign for Accountability revealed that Google’s ad serving platforms generate large revenues by placing advertisements on websites responsible for fake news.
Another research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that a fake story spreads between 1,000 and 100,000 Twitter users six times quicker than it takes authentic news to reach 1,500 people.
Further, fake accounts reportedly comprise almost 40% of the total Chinese social media platforms, including Weibo.
How Social Media Companies are Responding
In 2018, Google realised the loopholes in its fake news detection system and launched Google News Initiative, a platform to strengthen quality journalism. The company also launched “Subscribe with Google” service to encourage subscriptions to media publishers.
Google was able to remove 2.3 billion “bad ads” that violated its ad policies. Reportedly, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has removed ads from 1.5 million apps and about 28 million pages promoting fake stories. It also plans to spend $300 million to combat the epidemic.
Facebook, another Zacks Rank #3 stock, announced a $300 million investment into three-year partnerships with local newspapers. This will not only encourage the display of quality content but will also boost the dwindling demand for local newspapers.
Facebook is now planning to launch a dedicated news tab, in collaboration with publishers. High-quality news from trusted publishers is likely to lower the proliferation of fake news and boost its brand image among users.
Reportedly, in January 2019, the company removed 783 pages, groups and accounts from the Facebook and Instagram platforms, which were propagating agenda-based news from Iran.
The Iranian propaganda had also led Twitter to suspend 2,617 accounts before the U.S. Midterm elections last November, along with 418 and 764 suspicious accounts originating from Russia and Venezuela, respectively. Twitter has a Zacks Rank #3 at present.
Facebook and Twitter have been actively collaborating and working with lawmakers of the United States and other countries to deal with the issue.
China’s “Piyao” Fights Fake News
China has been fighting its own war against fake news by launching “Piyao” last year, which is a platform that identifies fake news across the Internet.
Apart from other social media sites, Piyao has an account on Weibo, helping the latter improve its content quality. Weibo also has its own official account where fake news from across the platform can be reported by users. Notably, it has a feature to tag misinformation since 2012, four years before Facebook took a similar initiative.
Currently, Weibo carries a Zacks Rank #3. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Alphabet Inc. Price and Consensus
Twitter, Inc. Price and Consensus
Weibo Corporation Price and Consensus
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