World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Together against fake news

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Together against fake news

"Misinformation has been around forever", said Gilles Demptos, Asia Director at WAN-IFRA. "But in recent months, the awareness of the impact of this phenomenon has raised. Everybody has been speaking about it".

That pulled people together to do something about it. Media organizations, tech companies like Google or Facebook, governments, students. A global brainstorm and a call for action to combat the spread of fake news and the damage they provoke to the news industry. "We can't do it by ourselves. We have to speak with the platforms, with the social media".

"There is no greater challenge than trust", emphasized Demptos.

Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief at the Singapore Straits Times&SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, defines fake news by the "3M": mischief, money, malice. He agrees that combating them "requires responses from various players: media, government, public, platforms, universities.

"We need to partner to work on common efforts", he said.

Regulators must also meet their obligations, he said. Singapore will introduce a new law on fake news next year; the precedent in Europe is Germany, whose news law imposes fines of up to 50 million euros on social media platforms if they fail to remove illegal content within 24 horas.

But there might be something more effective than legal actions: "The best answer to fake news is good journalism", considered Fernandez.

That is what Sun Sun Lim, Professor of Media & Communication and Head of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences at the University of Technology and Design of Singapore, is trying to teach her students. She is optimistic and thinks that, even though misinformation or disinformation has always existed, the fact that US President Donald Trump coined the expression "fake news" (to discredit the media who was critical with him) "has been the best gift we have ever had".

"Because it galvanized the public interest", she added. "Fake news is not new, it has been there for centuries.

However, the way and speed in which they spread around has indeed changed. That is why "platforms should hold a huge responsibility", she added.

Endy Bayuni, Chief Editor of The Jakarta Post, Indonesia's leading independent English language newspaper, reckons the "growing awareness in the public about fake news".

He gave as an example the persistent lies and fake news published about Indonesian president, Jowo Widodo (Jokowi), in the presidential elections of 2014. Something that Bayuni expects to be repeated in the preface of the 2019 elections.

While he assured that the president himself, as a victim of fake news, is implied in combating them, "there is not much that media can do".

"The role of media is to continue to practice journalism. And that is what we should continue to do", he said.

Fernandez considers that as journalists the obligation is "to scrutinize the information" and to push back hard when lies are detected. "One of the dangers is that because of the desire to appear fair and objective we don't push back hard enough. We have to have the courage to telling fake news".

One way to do it would be through a regional antifake news network, something that has been discussed, assured Fernandez. "So far we thought we would keep it informal - if we identify fake stories we share them. To try to build a multinational platform is a bit challenging", he said.

WAN-IFRA has just published a report, Truth & Trust in the Media – An Asian perspective, which is available free of charge to WAN-IFRA Members and is for sale to non-members.

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Paloma Almoguera


2017-11-02 17:17

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