Policy responses to the fake news phenomenon
- BIK Team
"Never let truth get in the way of a good story" said Mark Twain in a century where digital devices existed only in the realm of science fiction. More recently, when dealing with the ever-increasing phenomenon of fake news, European policy-makers have drawn on another literary reference: "No one wants a Ministry of Truth", stated MEP Marietje Schaake referencing George Orwell's futuristic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. This analogy has been further used by Vice-President Andrus Ansip who also explained that the European Commission does not seek for a Ministry of Truth either.
As is usually the case when it comes to public affairs, the concept of fake news reached public consciousness following a key event; specifically, the US presidential election campaign in the final three months of last year. While most of the discussions around fake news remain in the political sphere, misinformation of all sorts targets – and is further disseminated by – end-users daily, from youth through to adults.
In an effort to counter misinformation, the European institutions have initiated a series of actions to foster critical thinking and to equip European citizens with the necessary skills and tools to identify fake news.
According to the European Parliament Think Tank, fake news represents fabricated news stories with the deliberate aim of fooling readers, and has become an increasingly visible global phenomenon. In response, in April 2017, the Think Tank published a set of guidelines to help EU citizens spot when news is fake:
- Check the media outlet.
- Check the author.
- Check the references.
- Think before you share.
- Join the myth-busters.
In addition to this set of guidelines, the European Parliament has also published a strategic briefing on how this global phenomenon can tailor disinformation in today's post-truth era. According to this publication, "post-truth" was defined as Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year 2016 –as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."
Additionally, the European Commission has recently supported research at the University of Oxford that will receive top-up funding to create an online tool to assess suspicious social media accounts and counter fake news.
Undoubtedly, the discussions and initiatives at policy level to combat fake news will continue on.
- Martina Chapman
In each edition of the BIK bulletin, we look at a topical issue – our latest edition focuses on fake news. Fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles are hot topics right now. Are they the next generation of online-related challenges? Are they old foes wearing new clothes? Or are they something else? Martina Chapman, an independent specialist in media literacy, considers the role that critical media literacy, supported by cross-sector collaboration and coordination, may have in countering these issues. Read on to find out more (read the full June 2017 edition of the BIK bulletin here).
- Norwegian Safer Internet Centre
The June 2017 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin focuses on the highly topical issue of fake news. Here, Tone Haugan-Hepsø and Ida A. Erikstad from the Norwegian Media Authority (national coordinator of Norway's Safer Internet Centre (SIC)) update us on a recent survey on the issue.
- Dutch Safer Internet Centre
The topical issue of fake news is the focus for the June 2017 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin. Here, Mediawijzer.net, part of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre (SIC), shares some examples of media literacy approaches for combatting the problem.
- Greek Safer Internet Centre
The June 2017 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin focuses on the highly topical issue of fake news. Here, the Greek Safer Internet Centre (SIC), SaferInternet4Kids – Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas, shares some insights into the phenomenon in the country and how fake news is being exposed.