7 June 2017

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 June 7, 2017
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They say don’t believe everything you read in the news, which couldn’t be more true. MP Damian Collins has been the catalyst for combating fake news, something which first came about during the US 2016 Election when fake news articles started going viral on social media platforms.

MP Fake News Inquiry

It was announced back in January 2017 that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee were going to launch an inquiry into fake news. MP Damian Collins chairs the committee, and said that fake news is “a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general”.

What is Fake News?

Although fake news at first glance can look real, the stories are anything but. Some examples of this include rumours Yoko Ono had an affair with Hillary Clinton in the 1970s, and that Donald Trump is a member of the Illuminati.

A study found that in the lead up towards the US election, fake news stories generated more engagement than the genuine stories coming from reputable news outlets. The study revealed that the top 20 performing fake news stories garnered 8,711,0000 shares, reactions and comments versus the top 20 real news stories gaining just 7,367,000 shares, reactions and comments.

Damian Collins speaks to Sleeping Giant Media

We put some questions to Damian about fake news, and this is what he had to say.

Is fake news going in the direction of censorship? Does it impact the freedom of the speech?

We have to be clear what we mean by fake news. People have the right to express their opinions, but if they are claiming to be reporting news, or commenting on events or people, then it must be based on truth. Fake news is when people knowingly spread lies, but dress it up to look like real news. The intention of people spreading fake news is to confuse and mislead people, and to undermine confidence in the media and public institutions in general – this is why it is potentially so damaging during an election period

Do you have any top tips for detecting fake news?

Consider the source of the news, has it come from an organisation that is known to have proper fact checkers? Also look carefully at the web address to see if it appears unusual. If a story seems too good to be true, it probably is; but before you share it with others, check to see whether any of the mainstream news organisations are also reporting on the same story. If they aren’t, the chances are it is fake news.

Given the role fake news played in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, could the same happen to the UK General Election?

We know from analysis conducted by Facebook that people have used fake news as a weapon to try change opinions during elections. This has happened in the Presidential elections in both France and the USA. There has to be a danger that it could be used here too. It is essential that the social media companies are alert to the dangers and ready to act quickly against fake news when they see it being spread on their platforms

Is it the Government’s responsibility to combat fake news?

It is mainly the responsibility of the social media companies to act against fake news. They have a social responsibility  to act against fake news, just as they do on messages of hate, cyber bullying, illicit material or pirated content. If they fail to do this, then the government could consider introducing a new offence of failing to act, when material has been reported to a company either because it was illegal or against that company’s own community guidelines.

CEO Luke Quilter has this to say about fake news

Technology and social media have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, moving away from your “Top 8 Friends” on myspace and figuring out what Bebo was meant to achieve, to a revolution in the way we interact with each other on a constant basis.

It comes from everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Instagram to name a few. You have minute by minute updates. This has helped evolve the way we live into an environment where we are more connected than ever, but it can also prove dangerous as we’ve seen lately. The key is not to forget our common sense and human decency while we’re online.


Google’s ‘Project Owl’

The good news is that Project Owl is Google’s initiative to combat the fake news that’s tarnishing the web. Owls are renowned for being wise, which is why Google has stepped up its game to fight the war on fake news and problematic content.

Problematic content is a relatively new anti-trend that centres around pieces of content that consist of rumours, conspiracies and utter myths. Within these, the content can include highly outrageous and distressing information.

With Project Owl, Google is going to release a new feedback form for both search suggestions and ‘featured snippets’ answers, as well as policies about why suggestions may be taken out.

Facebook also said that they will be stopping adverts that show “misleading or illegal content”. Facebook’s trending function now is able to fish out fake news as it only shows stories that have been covered by several outlets rather than one piece of news that has been the most-shared.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or by tweeting us @SleepingGiantM

*This article does not reflect the political views of Sleeping Giant Media, its employees or partners.

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