herald

Friday 25 May 2018

Calls for Facebook code of practice in fighting 'fake news'

Wout van Wijk with Mariya Gabriel and INM’s Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae
Wout van Wijk with Mariya Gabriel and INM’s Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae

Online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter should have to sign up to a code of practice accepting responsibility for their role in fighting "fake news", a new European Commission report has said.

The European Union is to embark on a clampdown on disinformation, which is now posing a threat beyond day-to-day political discourse.

A High Level Expert Group, comprising members from throughout the EU, recommended a series of actions for leaders to take in the coming months.

It acknowledged that while "not necessarily illegal", disinformation can be harmful for citizens and society at large.

"The risk of harm includes threats to democratic political processes, including integrity of elections, and to democratic values that shape public policies in a variety of sectors such as health, science, finance and more," it said.

Among the key proposals are:

  • A code of practice for online platforms.
  • Media and information literacy to be added to the school curriculum.
  • Taxpayer support for demonstrably independent public service media.
  • European centres for monitoring the growth of disinformation.

The committee, which includes Independent News and Media (INM) Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae, chose not to use the term "fake news" as it has been "appropriated and used misleadingly by powerful actors to dismiss coverage that is simply found disagreeable".

The report stated that "disinformation" goes well beyond the term "fake news".

Disinformation is defined as including "all forms of false, inaccurate or misleading information designed, presented and promoted to intentionally cause public harm or for profit".

Battle

While much of the report centres on what media and politicians can do to battle disinformation, there is an emphasis on the role of digital platforms.

It notes that online sites "are becoming increasingly important as both enablers and gatekeepers of information".

Fine Gael Dublin MEP Brian Hayes said it is important to ensure that the steadfast principles of accuracy and truth remain at the heart of all forms of journalism.

"These are the values which have served us so well to date in all aspects of our lives," he said.

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