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The Fight against Fake News

15 Nov 2017

On November 13 and 14 RISJ Senior Research Fellow Lucas Graves took part in a European Commission conference on the problem of so-called “fake news”. Hosted by the EC’s Digital Single Market program, the meeting launched a new two-year roadmap by soliciting views on how to fight online misinformation from a range of voices in academia, journalism, and civil society, as well as platform companies such as Google and Facebook.

RISJ research on fact-checking initiatives, on trust in news, and on how audiences see fake news was cited widely at the meeting in assessing current efforts from news organizations and the platform companies. In a recent report, Graves and RISJ Research Director Rasmus Kleis Nielsen highlight that for everyday readers “fake news” is a blurry category that includes sensationalist and partisan reporting and even some kinds of advertising. Efforts to fight misinformation by labeling or deleting phony news stories do little to address the underlying problems of high political polarization and low trust in the news.

the fight against fake news

Discussion at the conference also raised the question of regulatory approaches to online misinformation and disinformation. As Graves has noted, while participant called for greater transparency from the platform companies about the effects of their current efforts, “we also heard a lot of people — not just the platforms — argue for caution in terms of trying to enforce policies around what are legitimate forms of expression online.”