Fake news and the democratic process
By Ingemar Pongratz
The expansion of the internet, the easy access to Social Media and other factors has made it easy to develop homepages very easily and at a very low cost. In addition, commercial exploitation of homepages is rather straight forward and can generate considerable amounts of money for the owners of homepages, specially if the homepage has a lot of visitors.
This possibility has allowed for a new phenomenon, namely sites which provide fake news, to enter the stage.
These are news which primarily sell commercial adds, and thus rely on high numbers of visitors.
To obtain high number of visitors these sites use social media to widely disseminate their message, and many times their content is completely fake. Examples of fake news include for example the statement that the catholic Pope endorsed Donald Trump. However, it seems clear that also certain governments have used fake news to influence the decision making processes of different countries, in fact according to US authorities, there may have been several attempts to influence the American elections by foreign powers.
This is a very worrying trend. It is of course very important that the information shared across Social Media channels is accurate and some kind of action or actions need to be taken to reduce and if possible eliminate the presence of Fake News channels.
Accurate and true information is a cornerstone for the democratic process and needs to be protected. In addition, the process whereby the problem is addressed needs to take into consideration fundamental rights of the public. After all, the freedom of speech is also a fundamental right and a cornerstone for democracies.
So the solution to this problem is likely to be a time consuming process and will also involve international collaboration between states. So in the mean time, the members of the public and media themselves need carefully source check news to ensure that the information they pass on to the public is accurate ad correct.