The trade body Digital Content Next (DCN), which represents over 70 major publishers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Viacom, Time Inc., Hearst, Gannett, Bloomberg, ESPN, the AP, BBC.com, and more, has sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai a pointed letter urging them to tackle the epidemic of fake news being shared across their sites, reports Business Insider. The glut of partisan fake news stories in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election has been seen by some as a factor in Trump winning the presidency. Here is the meat of Digital Content Next’s CEO Jason Kint’s letter:
To be clear, our plea is not that you somehow attempt to evaluate bias or censor legitimate speech. Moreover, your recent statements about potentially identifying “fake news” for what it is, and depriving the providers of this noxious material the economic sustenance to create it in the first place, are encouraging and constructive.
However, to paraphrase a recent New York Times editorial, we believe you owe your users, and democracy itself, far more. Your companies make it a point to celebrate “moonshots” that require extraordinary vision, resources and engineering prowess. Your capacity to pursue these projects is built on your extraordinary dominance over the digital media landscape.
Wouldn’t it make sense for you to pursue cleaning-up the garbage littering the digital media ecosystem with the same excitement, investment and vigilance with which you pursue these huge, visionary projects? We don’t see that in your public statements or actions. Over the years, you have claimed repeatedly that you are not media companies; instead, the word “utility” has been used, occasionally by your own executives. But if even 1% of the water in our local utility was polluted, wouldn’t it be right to move heaven and earth to clean it up?