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Combatting the Rise of Fake News

Fake news in the recent decade has been propagated by traditional and, more so, social media, with the intention to deceive readers with false information to maximize traffic and profit. Although it is not a new phenomenon, the emergence of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have eased the dispersion of disinformation, making it nearly impossible to distinguish real and fabricated information at first glance. Fake news has been a strong factor in major events in the world including the recent U.S. Presidential Elections, where it has been linked to influencing the results of the elections. It is also used as a political weapon, used to dismiss any news that goes against the views of the political party as false – all without a need for explanation or proof.

Canada is not unaffected by this. In January 2017, Nick Kouvalis, the campaign manager for Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch has been fired for posting false information about the Trudeau office claiming on Twitter that the Trudeau office was using billions of taxpayers’ money to fund terrorist groups rather than to help the homeless and jobless. In the same month, reports began circulating that the shooter of the Quebec mosque was yelling “Allahu Akbar” – though it has been taken down after the Trudeau office took on those false reports. This does not take away from the fact that millions have been exposed to these false news and form opinions based on artificially created information.

In an effort to curb fake news and their effects, the federal heritage committee is currently compiling a report about the future of media and journalism in Canada, in which fake news is heavily brought up. The report is to be shown to the Parliament in spring this year. Canada is also in talks with Google and Facebook to identify fake news on their site. However, curbing fake news is hard as doing so would limit the freedom of the press, something which goes against Canada’s policies and beliefs. Furthermore, drawing the line in identifying fake news, after outright falsehoods have been removed, is hard due to the multitude of sites with ideological bias and views.

In the light of concern about the spread of fake news, Canada is proposing several solutions that should:

  • establish an international cyber board for the intention to tackle fake news;
  • utilization of international cyber board to monitor news and distinguish between fake and real news;
  • collaborate with large multinational social corporations including Facebook and Twitter;
  • increase research and development into tools that can be used by citizens to identify fake news and report it;
  • create a registration system for news sites to register themselves and to be verified by the international cyber board.

Canada believes that the fight against fake news will be hard and long but knows that it is necessary to ensure that citizens are able to form opinions from real facts rather than alternative truths.

References:

Public Policy Forum (2017, January). The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age. Retrieved Feb 25, 2017, from https://shatteredmirror.ca/wpcontent/uploads/theShatteredMirror.pdf.

BBC (2016, December 26). Canada MP Probe Ways to Curtail Fake News. Retrieved Feb 25, 2017, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38399892.

The Washington Post (2017, February 26). The White House’s Big ‘Fake News’ Cop-out. Retrieved Feb 25, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/thefix/wp/2017/02/26/fake-news-is-a-potent-political-strategy-its-also-a-copout/?utm_term=.f509281f95d6.

The Canadian Press (2017, Jan 24). Facebook, Google to Tackle ‘Fake News’ In Canada With New Tools. Retrieved Feb 25, 2017, from https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/01/24/facebook-google-to-tackle-fake-news-incanada-with-new-tools.html.

Wood, L.S, Hatch, C (2017, February 2). How Vulnerable is Canada to fake news?. Retrieved Feb 25, 2017, from http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/02/02/analysis/howvulnerable-canada-fake-news-very.

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