When we hear the phrase “fake news” we often think of politicians and the media. However, businesses also perpetuate fake news, often unwittingly. LeanSpa, an internet retail business that sold purported weight loss products under various brand names, hired LeadClick to provide online advertising through its affiliate network. Toward that end, certain LeadClick affiliates used fake news sites to market LeanSpa products. These fake news sites looked like genuine news sites in that they had logos styled to look like news sites, and they included pictures of supposed reporters next to their articles. The articles generally represented that a reporter had performed independent tests that demonstrated the efficacy of the weight loss products. The websites also frequently included a Consumer Comment section, where purported consumers praised the products. There were no consumers commenting, however, since this content was invented. See this module’s assigned textbook reading for a synopsis of the LeadClick case.
Based on this case, the module resources, and your own experience, answer these questions:
Who has or should have primary responsibility for managing fake news and its consequences (i.e., social media companies, advertising companies, business, everyday citizens, government authorities, or others)? Why?
Is it unethical for a company to allow its ads to run on a controversial website—such as one that is promoting untested scientific data or one that includes what is commonly accepted as hate speech—even if doing so generates significant revenue for the company? Explain your position.