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TASS chief calls for joint effort against hoax news

June 02, 23:48 UTC+3 ST. PETERSBURG

The director general of TASS described media hoaxes as a true problem of the 21st century that affects every member of society

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TASS Director General Sergey Mikhaylov

TASS Director General Sergey Mikhaylov

© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

ST. PETERSBURG, June 2. /TASS/. TASS Director General Sergey Mikhaylov urged news agencies around the world to take a joint coordinated effort against hoax news during a summit of global news agencies in St. Petersburg.

The summit, held under the aegis of TASS, took place on Friday as part of this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and was headlined "Hoax vs. credible information: challenges of the modern information world."

Call to join forces

The director general of TASS described "alternative facts" as a true problem of the 21st century that affects every member of society. "Today, in my opinion, we need to team up and create mechanisms for a systemic effort against ‘alternative news,’" Mikhaylov said.

He said that first steps in this direction require "a clear and applicable definition of "hoax," acceptable from the legislative and law enforcement points of view," as well as measures to draw a clear distinction between the notions of "fact" and "opinion."

"Common approaches that we will forge may become recommendations that other media in our countries may use to counteract information attacks, disinformation and so on," the TASS chief said.

Mikhaylov also urged "to pay more attention and to actively develop principles and standards of ethical journalism." "Only an individual’s personal choice and respect to ethic principles allow drawing a clear line between truth and lies, between the professions of a journalist and a propagandist," he said, naming education among the aspects that contribute to solving this dilemma.

"Along with education, I would also suggest dealing with ideas behind this process and organizing a broad public discussion or maybe even a campaign involving publishers, media chiefs, key opinion leaders… I think that politicians and businessmen might also join our discussion," he said.

Mikhaylov said those measures may be carried out under the aegis of media alliances that bring together state agencies of various countries.

Crisis of trust

According to the TASS director general, the problem of hoax news has already spread beyond the media community and is being addressed at the highest level by "influential international organizations that play a major role in shaping external and internal policies of states."

"However, advanced technologies, the development of the internet and social networking sites have sped up the process of spreading any kind of news, which, in fact, has become a major problem" and a reason why people’s trust in the media was undermined, the TASS chief said.

"Finding information used to be of utmost importance in the past, but today the ability of filtering and taking a critical look is becoming more and more crucial," he added.

"I would describe the situation as a global crisis of trust that affects all countries and all social groups. And I think that the trust in the profession of a journalist, in its basic values and principles now at stake," Mikhaylov said, adding that many people attribute the trend to a rapid erosion of professional standards in the media.

"Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more difficult to disagree with this statement. The production of fake news, false in their essence but packed in beautiful propaganda wrappings, is becoming more and more profitable. Moral values and basic principles of the profession hang in the balance now, challenged by an opportunity to make big money," he said.

"In all, traditional media and journalism face a serious challenge," the TASS chief said. "Our task is to give it an adequate response."

Experience of TASS

Speaking to representatives of global media outlets, Mikhaylov said that TASS, Russia’s leading news agency with a history of more than 112 years, has its own standards and algorithms of processing information. The agency has a multi-level system of verifying the authenticity of any report.

"We have always placed authenticity and precision before speed, that’s how we sort out our priorities in TASS. When speed and trueness collide, we opt for trueness," the TASS chief said.

About the forum

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is the most important annual economic conference held in Russia. Since 1997, heads of state, ministers, CEOs of Russian and foreign companies have been meeting to discuss economic issues that Russia and the developing countries are facing. Since 2005, Russia’s president has been taking part in the forum.

The SPIEF platform is a place where big contracts are made. At the 2016 forum, more than 330 agreements totaling one trillion rubles (roughly $17.6 bln) were signed, while 12,000 people from 130 countries participated in the event.

The 2017 the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is taking place in Russia’s second largest city on June 1-3. The forum is dubbed Achieving a New Balance in the Global Economic Arena.

TASS news agency is the general information partner and the official photohost agency of the event. The agency is also the operator of the forum’s presentation zone.

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