Facebook and Google are taking their war on fake news to new heights, and the stakes could be very high.
A federal court has blocked the Social Media Research Institute from collecting data about people who are fake news writers, and in doing so has thrown a spotlight on the industry’s efforts to battle the spread of fake news.
The decision is a victory for a small but vocal group of fake-news purveyors, including Facebook, who argue that collecting data on fake- news writers is essential to the company’s fight against fake news on its platform.
But in a sign of the growing popularity of fake and other misinformation on social media, the court’s ruling also came as a setback for the industry, which relies heavily on paid advertising on the platform.
“Facebook and Google must continue to work to ensure that their platform remains a welcoming place for fake news and misinformation to spread,” said Michael V. Cohen, Facebook’s vice president for public policy, in a statement.
“This decision is yet another example of Facebook’s commitment to protecting our community from false information and misinformation peddlers.”
The decision to block the data collection is significant because it could be the first major setback to fake- News Media Institute, a nonprofit organization formed to protect people’s right to free speech on the social network.
Facebook had argued that collecting the data was essential to its efforts to combat misinformation on its service.
Google said in a brief statement that it is reviewing the decision and will provide more information as soon as it is available.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston of California, a Republican, comes as Facebook and other companies are increasingly under fire for failing to police fake news or take down stories that spread falsehoods.
The ruling has been viewed with alarm by publishers and news organizations, who worry that their livelihoods could be jeopardized.
In response, Facebook and others are pushing back on the notion that they have a monopoly on the information that people share online, saying they are simply responding to the needs of their users.
The companies also argue that data collected in this way is critical to the success of the platform, and they argue that the ruling will allow the industry to better protect its users and advertisers.
“While we disagree with the court, we believe it is in the public interest to collect as much information as possible about our users and to make it easy for them to report and share information that they believe is harmful to our platform,” Facebook said in its statement.
The case was brought by the fake-News Media Institute and two publishers named in the suit: the Washington Post and BuzzFeed News.
The judge, a Democrat appointed by President Barack Obama, said in her ruling that Facebook has an obligation to protect its audience from false content on its platforms and that she has not yet ruled on whether the company can do so.
But she did rule that it must provide “sufficient notice to users” about the existence of the data and the privacy concerns raised by it.
“It is necessary to ensure the existence and protection of personal information to avoid the inadvertent or intentional collection of data,” she wrote.
“The privacy concerns raise by this data collection cannot be ignored,” Illston wrote.
The plaintiffs argued that Facebook is a public utility, and it has the authority to collect the data that the company collects about its users, as well as about the people it connects with.
Facebook has not argued that it has any right to collect data about its millions of users, and some news organizations have raised questions about the privacy implications of collecting data from social networks.
“There are legitimate privacy concerns,” the judge wrote, noting that she had found “in a number of cases” that Facebook’s ability to collect and use data was not clear.
She said the company was required to disclose what kinds of data it collects and what data is kept in plain text.
“For the reasons stated, the data-collection requirements are reasonable and appropriate,” she concluded.
The dispute over fake news began in August 2016, when the fake news site SputnikNews published a list of celebrities with fake or questionable names.
The list included actors like Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Jennifer Lopez, and other celebrities with names that were associated with fake news sites.
Facebook quickly shut down Sputnaz, and Facebook and the other companies that run its service, including Twitter, quickly announced they were ending their partnership with Sputnicks, a decision that caused Sputniks to launch a new website, Sputnet, which had more content about celebrities and other famous people.
Sputnyks then used the new website to publish fake news about people, many of them celebrities.
In April 2017, SpetsnikNews and SputNaz were joined by several other fake news publications, including The Drudge Report, BuzzFeed, The Drumpf Report, and The Gateway Pundit.
Facebook began using a machine learning tool to detect fake news stories