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False vs credible information: a challenge to the modern information world

June 03, 3:47 UTC+3
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CHALLENGES:

  • New technologies as a tool to disseminate false information

“The latest technologies and the advancement of the internet and social media have resulted in news spreading incredibly fast <...>. Any piece of news, regardless of its quality, will be re-posted, and will get from China to Peru in just a couple of minutes,” said Sergey Mikhaylov, General Director, Russian News Agency TASS.

 “A new [thing] is how fast people can get to this true or false information,” said Giuseppe Cerbone, Chief Executive Officer, ANSA.

  • The truth is relative

“Nothing is always true, or nothing is always false. This is the world where we live in. <...> Whether we like it or not, this is always going to be as long as the human beings are going to be around – there is no true, there is no false,” added Giuseppe Cerbone.

“The truth is so multi-faceted that there is no point in resorting to lies,” said Sergey Mikhaylov.

  • Mass media losing trust of their audience

 “I would characterise the current situation as a global credibility gap covering all the nations and population groups. And I think that at stake is the trust in news-making, in journalism as a profession, in its core values and basic principles,” said Sergey Mikhaylov.

“[It has made an impact on] the traditional media, not only the newspapers, but also the TV. <...> The younger generation read and watch [traditional media] less,” said Kakuya Ogata, Managing Director, International Department, Kyodo News.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Fake news can be fought against by educating people and fostering critical thinking

“We have to start in educating ourselves, in educating our children, from school, from early school at having doubts, not in saying what’s true or what’s false, but in understanding that there is nothing totally true and there is nothing totally false. We have to make them think, we have to make them consult more sources, we have to make them see how things go in life and make their own belief in what’s true and what’s false,” said Giuseppe Cerbone.

“Our Italian colleague has said that the solution to the problem is even more deeply rooted in educational approaches than the problem itself. I absolutely agree with it, and there is only one “but”: the education is also vulnerable to this epidemic of fakes. Just take a look at the way textbooks are re-written,” said Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

“Education is one of the aspects, <...> but I would also take a closer look at the ideology behind this process. I would go for an ample public debate, or even campaigns involving publishing houses, mass media owners, and opinion leaders,” said Sergey Mikhaylov.

  • The professional community should join forces to stop the spread of fake information

"We are seeking to kick off a discussion about a potential global framework, <...> a framework or a tool to contain the spread of misleading information. <...> The dedicated organisations, such as journalist associations and various professional unions, should oppose this [the spread of fake news]," said Maria Zakharova.

 "We need to disrupt the economics around fake news. We have done our research on people who are actually paid to do this. They earn money through advertising revenue on the internet, because people click on the article and that brings the money. The big platforms need to tackle this in a very targeted fashion. Go after the money. That will help. So it's not all on journalists. It's also on the platforms on which this is actually happening," said Ian Phillips.

  • Fact checks, true articles as a way to fight falsehoods

"We have started publishing case studies and materials that contain fake information to uncover the falsehoods, distortions, and so on. We have even designed a dedicated section at our website to that end," said Maria Zakharova.

"We choose our battles. We are currently at AP working with Facebook and some other partners to identify stories that are getting traction online and in social media, and we pick and choose. <...> We write a story that will debunk what this article is about. Our article will travel with that story around social media. A vulnerable teenager who might not be very literate in news will see it, but he will also see something attached to it saying this is fake news," said Ian Phillips, Vice President for International News, Associated Press (AP).

"There are certain standards and algorithms on how to handle information. <...> Obviously, TASS has a multistage verification system in place, performing fact checks on absolutely all pieces of news," said Sergey Mikhaylov.

  • Higher professionalism and the priority of journalism ethics

"I think we should focus more <...> on the principles and standards of ethical journalism. The free personal choice and commitment to ethical principles are the only way to distinguish between the truth and lies, between a journalist and a propagandist," said Sergey Mikhaylov.

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