BLOG

The Solution to Fake News? Manage It

07.09.2018
Share this

Seeking drastic fixes raises the spectre of unintended consequences.

Fake news is big news. Problems range from state-sponsored disinformation to shock-jock conspiracy theorists and bedroom fantasists, all of them vying for attention in, ironically enough, the “mainstream media”. It’s an old problem, (“falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it”, Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710) but, digitally weaponised, it has evolved into a more menacing threat; one with real implications for democratic principles.

Front and centre of the issue are the social media platforms1. Fighting on fronts including the use and misuse of data, fraud, security and child protection, they are “victims of their own success”. And, as new media outlets, they are expected to take responsibility for the output that they enable, and amplify. The only problem with this is knowing what to do in practice. Social media embody the principles of free speech, but where does this end and censorship begin? The platforms have hired thousands of content moderators, and are hiring thousands more, but this approach can only go so far. And anyway the policies of the platforms themselves are inconsistent. The current legal case of the Sandy Hook parents against Alex Jones, who claimed that the school shooting massacre was faked, illustrates the point perfectly. His material was immediately removed from most social media sites, but remained for another month on Twitter, who initially maintained that he had violated none of their rules. (It has now been removed.) Jones’ lawyers state that, it is “his constitutional right to invent stories and that no reasonable person would take Mr Jones’ words as fact”.

What everyone does seem to agree on is that existing, nationally-based regulation provides an insufficient basis (and legal right) to act, and that something must be done about it. With public and governmental pressure mounting, there is a desire to make a “bold step”, perhaps involving legislation. This, the argument goes, is what is needed to demonstrate that the authorities have a “grip on the issue”, that a solution to the problem is in the pipeline. Whilst understandable, this view is misguided. Such a reaction carries the serious risk of adverse consequences in, for example, whistleblowing, or the genuine investigative journalism on which democracies also depend. It might instead be better to recognise that fake news will continue to be the price paid for freedom of expression. Rather than a solution, a consistent approach is required, agreed through a collective effort from regulators, policymakers and industry. Such an effort would involve continual debate and the exchange of experiences and ideas based on actual practice. I think I might know an organisation that can help.

Seeking drastic fixes raises the spectre of unintended consequences.

Theme:
Privacy, Safety, Security, Governance
Andrea Millwood Hargrave Andrea Millwood Hargrave Director General, International Institute of Communications
You may also like... Blog
petri dishes
Coronavirus reminds us of the seriousness of fake news 18.02.2020
Blog
Reality Bites in the Spectrum Auctions 20.01.2020
Blog
Will 2020 Be the Year Regulation Catches Up With Social Media? 16.01.2020

Latest

News
IMDA Singapore
Bids submitted for 5G licences in Singapore 21.02.2020
News
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Zuckerberg’s stance on regulation 20.02.2020
Blog
petri dishes
Coronavirus reminds us of the seriousness of fake news 18.02.2020
News
FTC investigates 'big tech' acquisitions
FTC investigates ‘big tech’ acquisitions 17.02.2020
View All
Back to the top

The IIC is the world's only policy debating platform for the converged communications industry

We give innovators and regulators a forum in which to explore, debate and agree the best policies and regulatory frameworks for widest societal benefit.

Insight: Exchange: Influence

We give members a voice through conferences, symposiums and private meetings, as well as broad exposure of their differing viewpoints through articles, reports and interviews.

The new website will make it easier for you to gather fresh insights, exchange views with others and have a voice in the debate

Take a look Learn more about our updates
Please upgrade your browser

You are seeing this because you are using a browser that is not supported. The International Institute of Communications website is built using modern technology and standards. We recommend upgrading your browser with one of the following to properly view our website:

Windows Mac

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of browsers. We also do not intend to recommend a particular manufacturer's browser over another's; only to suggest upgrading to a browser version that is compliant with current standards to give you the best and most secure browsing experience.