Fake news’ has been named the word of the year by Collins dictionary due to its widespread use around the world. The UK-based lexicographer found that the use of ‘fake news’— defined as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”, registered a 365 percent rise in the last 12 months.
As online accessibility continues to grow, social media has also been plagued by an onslaught of fake news and misleading content. “At Facebook, we are spending tremendous amount of time and energy to identify fake news. We are now sharing information with other big tech companies to find out the root cause. Facebook is going to increase head counts and investments to counter fake news in 2018,” Alex Hardiman head of the news product at Facebook told the gathering at the HT Leadership Summit in November. Alex stressed that both traditional media outlets and social media platforms must come together to devise increasingly smart methods to deal with them misinformation.
Governments around the world are scrambling to combat influential online trolls and purveyors of fake news. Here’s how the world is trying to tame the beast of fake news:
A group of influential UK MPs launched an investigation into fake news, earlier this year, calling the proliferation of fake news “a threat to democracy” that undermined “confidence in the media in general.” The goal of the inquiry, spearheaded by the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, was to identify those most likely to be misled by false articles and to set an industry-standard definition of the phenomenon. The use of internet ‘bots’ to influence political debate will be punished with fines or five years’ imprisonment under new laws tabled by Fianna Fáil in Ireland.
A ground-breaking proposals to be brought before the Dáil this month will also make it an offence to actively promote ‘fake news’ using social media sites. The European Commission announced the launch of a public consultation and the creation of a high-level expert group in November to help the European Union develop a strategy to stop the spread of fake news. The German parliament in June approved a bill aimed at cracking down on hate speech, criminal material and fake news on social networks. Germany has some of the world’s toughest laws covering defamation, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence.
A global alliance of tech industry and academic organisations unveiled plans in April to work together to combat the spread of “fake news” and improve public understanding of journalism. The News Integrity Initiative has the backing of Facebook, the Ford Foundation, Mozilla and others. In 2014, in the aftermath of the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, the vacuum of reliable information in the Ukrainian media was filled by a deluge of misinformation and propaganda from Russia. To counter this, a small group at the KyivMohyla Academy in Kiev started StopFake, a media organization devoted solely to debunking fake news and Russian propaganda. Today, three years later, StopFake is a multi-platform media outlet with a nightly TV show broadcast on 30 local channels, a weekly radio show, and a strong social media following. In Philippine, there is a law that makes the publication of “false news” a crime punishable by longer imprisonment and heavier fines. The Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s most influential Islamic authority, issued an edict in June forbidding Muslims from spreading hate speech, fake news, pornographic material and racial slurs on social media. Earlier this year, the Communications Ministry also blocked 11 websites, mostly for spreading hate speech and fake news.