In the internet age, social media campaigns have become a powerful tool of political campaign. So, while Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were arguing in the presidential debates, their supporters and the social media machinery were busy countering their arguments and, in some cases, even “creating” news to garner votes. Fake news was being generated on social media platforms even before the US election, but the poll results have shone the spotlight on the issue. One, because this was the first election in the country that engaged social networks like Facebook and Twitter like never before, and two, because the propaganda somehow eclipsed news on most of these sites. So, even if Trump was not supported by Pope Francis and did not win the popular vote, stories that went viral via Facebook and featured in the listing of Google News had users believe otherwise.
This has led people to question the trustworthiness of these platforms. Google and Facebook have done well to announce a ban on fake news sources to restore their credibility, but they will have to do more than just banning a few to not end up like Twitter, which has not been able to control online abuse and cyber-bullying on its platform. Although these websites have maintained a neutral stance till now, with social media becoming important aggregators of news, they need to self-regulate what is posted and promoted. That may play a havoc with advertising revenues—Google earns revenue from sites promoting themselves via its AdSense service—but that is an issue it will have to deal with in order to retain users; it will have to choose whether to introduce filters for AdSense that screen out fake content or make disclaimers regarding the veracity of the story more prominent.