BLOG

We Must Empower Citizens in the Battle of Disinformation

04.10.2018
Share this

Calls for censorship will become louder if effective action is avoided

Few would disagree that fake news, the most visible part of the war of disinformation, represents a real and present threat. Luckily the evidence we have so far, from research carried out by the Oxford Reuters group1, is that fake news is having a minimal direct impact. Its effect is limited mostly to groups of “believers” seeking to reinforce their own opinions and prejudices. But accusations of fake news are frequently hurled indiscriminately, as different sides try to impose their own news agenda. And, paradoxically, the more fake news is discussed, the greater problem it is felt to be. This undermines trust in all media and instils the idea that it’s impossible to know what’s true and what isn’t. This is furthered by deep fake news, a development in Artificial Intelligence where Audio Visual content is manipulated to make it virtually impossible to recognize true from false. If we believe that the informed citizen is the underpinning of democracy, then this is an issue that requires action – but what action?

People are entitled to read what they choose including fake newsThere are some calls, in the European Union and elsewhere, for certain sources or websites to be blocked, or demoted in searches. This is a misguided approach. For one thing trolls, like mushrooms, will simply pop up elsewhere. And people are entitled to read what they choose, including fake news. And the idea that the “mainstream media” is being favoured over so-called alternative media sources plays into the hands of those with interests in sowing dis-information. Instead, we must ensure that consumers understand what they are reading, and that they have proper access to diverse and independent media.

Our report highlighted a number of actions2 and none of the actors in this can avoid their share of responsibility. Media companies have sometimes not paid enough attention to checking the sources of information. Fact-checking technology has an important role to play, provided it is independent and free from any political influence. Platforms can provide client-based interfaces for control and guidance on selecting, for example, priorities in news searches and news feeds, diversity of opinions on consumer time lines and the re-posting of fact-checked information. Platforms need to be transparent about their algorithms. They should identify sources as much as possible and make these visible to the reader. Sponsored content needs to be very clearly identified. There are many opportunities for co-operation in information-sharing across media. Governments and regulators have an obligation to provide for a sustainable, diverse media environment, whilst ensuring there are full protections for freedom of speech and its dissemination.

Finally, it is crucial that the EU and member states come forward with budgets to support independent quality news media and media agents, including journalist training and support for fact-checking organisations. We not only need a concerted effort to teach media literacy in schools, but also to adults – indeed all those that have the right to vote. Ultimately it will be citizens and consumers that will marginalise the effects of fake news. Our task is to give them all the help we can.

 

1https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/our-research/measuring-reach-fake-news-and-online-disinformation-europe

2https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/final-report-high-level-expert-group-fake-news-and-online-disinformation

Calls for censorship will become louder if effective action is avoided

Theme:
Governance, Privacy, Safety, Security
Madeleine de Cock Buning Madeleine de Cock Buning Chairman of the Board, Commissariaat Voor De Media, the Netherlands
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.