In this week’s news, we report on fake news, gaming cheats, misleading ads and more.
It is not always easy to distinguish false information from the truth online and yet the spread of false information has the potential to harm both individuals and society as a whole. This is particularly so in the case of health and politics. Four main factors contributing to this growing problem have been identified by Ofcom. One is that lower costs, (compared with traditional paper-based news outlets), have enabled the number of online providers to grow to include online-only newspapers as well as podcasters, vloggers, bloggers and social media influencers. Some of these have low journalistic standards or are intent on spreading false information.
Secondly, and linked to the wider number of contributors, search engines and news aggregators open these to wider audiences and help audiences find a wider range of content, using algorithms to rank the content they are presented with.
Thirdly, the report references a 2020 Ofcom study which showed that “45% of UK adults consume news via social media, either directly on the platform or after being redirected to a website from a social media service.” Algorithms on these platforms filter content to maximise audience attention and advertising. This can result in users seeing a limited range of content that reinforces their existing views. Finally, changes in the way that advertising is sold online mean that even small media outlets can generate some advertising income, and this has inadvertently monetised the creation of false information.
Ofcom studied sites which had been rated as “false information websites” by Newsguard and found that “between September 2018 and August 2020, the 177 false information websites in [the] sample attracted on average 14 million visits a month in the UK – a small but still significant volume of online traffic.”
CALL OF DUTY: WARZONE CHEATING
Widespread cheating on Call of Duty: Warzone has led to action to address the problem. In just one day 60,000 accounts were banned for using cheating software in Warzone. According to a blog post this week by Activision, this brings the total number of permanent bans since its launch to 300,000. The company adds that it is working on enhanced technological capabilities to address the issue as well as more enforcement and zero tolerance for cheat providers.
MISLEADING FILTERS ON INSTAGRAM ADS
Two ads for tanning products posted by influencers on Instagram have been banned on the grounds that they used filters which gave a misleading impression of the products’ capabilities. The bans were imposed by the Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds that the posts broke the Advertising Code against misleading advertising and exaggeration.
MOBILE PHONE BAN IN SCHOOLS
Authorities in China react to concerns about children’s internet use by implementing a ban on bringing mobiles phones into school without parental consent. According to a BBC report, the concerns relate to growing short sightedness, reduced ability to concentrate as well as worries about gaming addiction leading to mental health issues.
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