Is There A Role For Government In Fighting The Latest World Wide Right-Wing Scourge: Fake News
The Washington Post recently defined fake news as "deliberately constructed lies, in the form of news articles, meant to mislead the public." Last month California Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez-- currently running for the open L.A. congressional seat Xavier Bacerra left to become state Attorney General-- introduced a bill in Sacramento to empower educators to help school children understand the difference between actual news and Trump's and Putin's Alt-News, i.e., fake news. Some right-wing hack in a bowtie on Fox-- Tucker Carlson I think-- had a meltdown over it. After all, if people understood what fake news was, who would watch Fox? Gomez's bill "would require the state to establish curriculum standards and frameworks to teach 'civic online reasoning' to middle- and high-schoolers. The intention is to help give youngsters 'the ability to judge the credibility and quality of information found on Internet Web sites, including social media,' the bill states. That's an existential threat to would be tyrants like Team Trump, as well as to their media outlets.
“For every challenge facing this nation, there are numerous Internet sources pretending to be something they are not,” according to the proposed legislation. “With so much information shared on the Internet, it can be difficult to tell the difference between real news and fake news.As you can imagine, Republicans and other purveyors of fake news have been hyperbolic over Gomez's proposal. Yesterday, a British newspaper, The Telegraph reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook is as concerned about fake news as Jimmy Gomez is-- and "is calling for governments to launch a public information campaign to fight the scourge of fake news, which is 'killing people’s minds."
“Ordinary people once relied on publishers, editors, and subject matter experts to vet the information they consumed, but information shared on the Internet is disseminated rapidly and often without editorial oversight, making it easier for fake news to reach a large audience.”
It comes at a time when, Gomez said, “we have seen the corrupting effects of a deliberate propaganda campaign driven by fake news.”
“When fake news is repeated, it becomes difficult for the public to discern what's real,” he said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “These attempts to mislead readers pose a direct threat to our democracy.”
In an impassioned plea, Mr Cook, boss of the world’s largest company, says that the epidemic of false reports “is a big problem in a lot of the world” and necessitates a crackdown by the authorities and technology firms.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, he calls for a campaign similar to those that changed attitudes on the environment to educate the public on the threat posed by fabricated online stories.
Made-up news reports trying to promote a particular agenda gained huge traction on social media in the US during the election.
“It has to be ingrained in the schools, it has to be ingrained in the public,” said Mr Cook. “There has to be a massive campaign. We have to think through every demographic.
"We need the modern version of a public-service announcement campaign. It can be done quickly if there is a will.”
The rise of fake news was being driven by unscrupulous firms determined to attract online readers at any cost, he said.
“We are going through this period of time right here where unfortunately some of the people that are winning are the people that spend their time trying to get the most clicks, not tell the most truth,” he said. “It’s killing people’s minds in a way.”
Tech firms, which have been criticised for doing too little, also need to up their game, he said.
“All of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news.
"We must try to squeeze this without stepping on freedom of speech and of the press, but we must also help the reader. Too many of us are just in the complain category right now and haven’t figured out what to do.”
He said that this crackdown would help providers of quality journalism and help drive out clickbait. “The outcome of that is that truthful, reliable, non-sensational, deep news outlets will win,” Mr Cook said.
“The [rise of fake news] is a short-term thing-- I don’t believe that people want that at the end of the day.”
A new approach was required in schools, he said. “It’s almost as if a new course is required for the modern kid, for the digital kid.”
But he is optimistic. “In some ways kids will be the easiest to educate. At least before a certain age, they are very much in listen and understand [mode], and they then push their parents to act. We saw this with environmental issues: kids learning at school and coming home and saying why do you have this plastic bottle? Why are you throwing it away?”