Fake news: ready to take up the challenge?

Disinformation, fake news and access to reliable information are a very huge concern for the European Union. On the one side, fake news influence electoral behaviour; on the other side it is like very difficult to convince people of the falsehood of those news, even with facts.

This is what we learn from a report published last April by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. According to the same source, the main channels of disinformation are social media and online news sites.

Let’s clarify terms

According to the definition given by the European Commission Communication on Tackling Online Disinformation in 2018, we should define disinformation as: “verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain or to intentionally deceive the public, and in any event to cause public harm“.

How does this affect young people?

This issue is also one of the focuses of Youth Goals.

“The Youth Goals are the outcome of the Structured Dialogue with Youth process 2017-18. They represent views of young people from all over Europe”

http://youthgoals.eu/

In fact, in the document we can read that one of the goals is to “Ensure young people have better access to reliable information, support their ability to evaluate information critically and engage in participatory and constructive dialogue”. It looks like moving on two different lines, the one more focused on misleading news themselves, the other more focused on hate speech and violence online and offline. On the one side, in fact, they want to provide youth with critical tools to approach information, on the other side they are concerned about the effects of some contents on behaviors.

As an aside, the points related to hate-speech, tolerant and nonviolent dialogue are also at the centre of the conclusions of another report by Eurostat. In the document “Being young in Europe today – digital world”, indeed, we can read the concern about exposition to “potentially harmful content, which may create dependency, anxiety or aggression”.

But, in this article, we will keep on dealing with fake news issues, reserving the right to focus on the other point in a next article.

Which policies can help to solve the problem?

Policy-makers are aware that it is not possible to leave such a big issue just to the market self-regulation. Therefore, even if appreciating the actions taken by Facebook, for example, the European Commission knows public policies initiatives are needed.

Recommendations…

About this topic, the European Commission has collected a lot of recommendation. The High Level Group on Fake news has recommended five lines action, mostly focusing on enhancing transparency of online news, develop tools to counter disinformation and to give journalists the possibility to tackle disinformation, and to safeguard diversity and sustainability of news in Europe.

Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel (centre), with Members of the High Level Group on Fake News and Online Disinformation and EC staff [Veni / Flickr]
Source: www.euractiv.com

Moreover, the European Commission Communication on Tackling Online Disinformation in 2018 has given its recommendations. It mostly focuses on relations between media and online platforms, cooperation between independent fact checkers, media literacy. It also proposed new technologies to tackle disinformation, as well as public fund for quality journalism.

…and actual policies

The recommendations above will not lead to new policies, but will be used to improve already existing tools. Among them, we can quote the General Data Protection Regulation, the Audio-visual Media Services Directive and State Aid mechanisms. All of them are ways to improve trust, transparency and accountability. On the other side, the Commission promotes also “Fact-checking” initiatives.

“Combating fake news is ultimately a question of creating efficient news quality differentiation mechanisms to avoid that news markets are invaded by low quality disinformation and false news”.

[JRC Technical Report – The digital transformation of news media and the rise of disinformation and fake news – 2018]

Youth4Europe project

Youth4Europe is a Erasmus+ KA3 project, in which young people will have the opportunity to discuss and write proposals about European policies and maybe discuss them with MEPs. One on the focuses of the projects will be Media and Web Manipulation. The first exchange on this topic will be in March, in Burgos, Spain. Do you think to have a good proposal? Apply here.

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