Man sitting and reading newspaper, that are on fire.

Fake news and disinformation: Who can we trust with our democracies?

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It seems like it’s more and more difficult to access trustworthy news sources, while also being harder and harder to accurately fight algorithmic bias and discern what fake news is.

How can we ensure everyone is able to access fact-checked news? Should the responsibility to decide what news is fake, offensive or deserving of censorship be left in the hands of tech giants content moderators?

What would effective media literacy education look like, so people would know how to decode information correctly?

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The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has selected some of its resources to provide young people like you with background information and insights linked to the topic above.

Briefing, April 2020

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Nikolaos Moutsidis
26 January 2021

It has become apparent that in the society that we live in hate speech and fake news are spreading quick. So quick that by the time any post is fact-checked by individuals or groups of people it is likely that the main distorted idea has already been familiarized by many. As a matter of fact, even highly regarded individuals seem to fall in this trap. (i.e. politicians). But should the problem be addressed from the platforms themselves? This is the main argument that I would like to stand on. Personally, I think that this is a huge blow to modern democracy. As we know social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are run by just a handful of people consisting the administrating board. Thus, the opinions may not contribute to the common good as there is a huge profit at stake which most of the time interferes with the outlooks of decision-making. Let me address a bright example. As most of us know Donald Trump's social media accounts have been suspended. Now this can be examined from two points of view. The first one raises questions regarding the face of democracy, today. One of the fundamental principles of democracy, as we know, is the right to free speech and expression. One's opinion may or may not be welcomed from the general public but the right to express it is inalienable. It is well known that the Trump administration left some big wounds in US social cohesion making most of the public turn against him, something that became evident in the US Presidential Elections of past November. But this shouldn't serve as a motive for his ban. The second point of view is that he is a man of influence, thus, his peculiar character combined with the extreme viewpoints and equally extreme posts of his could pave the path for alt-right members and paramilitary groups to gain social acceptance and eventually threaten democracy and its social principles. So here comes the ban as a stopping force for this nightmare to unfold. Both schools of thought seem to follow a logical and healthy way of thinking and that is something that is needed more than ever in the times we live in. But let me address something that is also needed in this world: critical thinking. The people have the ability, the tools and the good intention to develop and put it into practice each and every day. It should be up to the people if they think that a post is good or bad depending on a number of factors such as their own ideals, political views, education level etc. The critical thinking of a healthy mind will by itself lead its master to fact-checking or in-depth analysis of the posted statement in no time at all. People do not need a board of directors to filter information for them. They need a platform from which they can derive information. That should be the sole purpose of the latter. At the end of the day who can guarantee the authority of the people who label a statement as false or fake? This again concludes to the fact that critical thinking is required. Each post that includes fake-news, each post that includes hate speech, each post that promotes extremism and violence shouldn't be seen as something damaging to the society rather than something from which can stem beautiful things. To be more specific, we can train our critical thinking daily and that is something that is currently missing from our society. It seems that we are getting too comfortable. We are reading countless posts and articles daily from an array of different sources and yet we expect each and every one of them to be accurate. How realistic is that? Definitely, not as much as we would prefer to. What remains realistic is the reality of the world itself that we live in today. There will be hate speech, there will be crime, there will be extremism. But here are we to answer to everything with our minds, the greatest gift yet to mankind. May we get up from our couches and learn and educate ourselves so that we can finally have a clear view of the world. We don't need pre-chewed food. We need to collect the resources and prepare our own. By this analogy we can understand the situation unraveling before us. Our schools should trigger critical thinking on a constant basis. This includes discussions, debates and events. European institutions can also play a role here too! Giving the opportunity to media platforms to host discussions on a European and international level, hosting events for the youth to take part. Academics and intellectuals can contribute to this by giving their opinions and educating people of all ages through courses on critical thinking. All in all, we may strike back to hate and negativity by growing our minds and paving the way for our own sake and future. There might be adversity and hardship but there is always light at the end of the tunnel!

Prefer not to say
05 April 2020

It would be great to make it mandatory for TV channels, radio broadcasters, newspapers... to have a "Fake New" section of about 5 minutes in order to get the population informed of all the fake stuff out there. Plus, national, regional o european agencies specifically created to verify the news and spoting fake news would also be very benefitial to the general public

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