Fake news, a new challenge

At present Internet gives us access to an immense world of information that we are constantly exposed to. Information is incessantly appearing on digital platforms, notably including social networks and instant messaging. With such constant traffic of information, many users spread fake news [1].

False news aims to air either false or partially false information. This can be produced on the basis of false content with no relation to a real incident, based on distorted real content to change the meaning, or with information taken from satirical websites or based on the construction of false news that goes on to be spread as real.

Reported cases

Just before the presidential elections in the United States 2016, a fake news item was put out to undermine the image of the democrat candidate according to which, supposedly, Wikileaks confirmed that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the sale of weapons to the terrorist group Islamic State. This fact, which took place one month before the elections were held, amounted to a serious blow for the democrat party and influenced the country’s public opinion.

In Spain, false news like the news about the return of obligatory military service caused uproar among network users, who took a stand against this measure. The news, later denied via ‘Maldito Bulo’ [2], for example, kept the general public feeling unsure, an insecurity that quickly spread across information platforms.

Similarly, there is a significant presence of fake news involving gender issues. The Catalan Audiovisual Council issued the report13/2018 in March, which presented a study of fake news spread on the network about gender issues and analysed a range of news items. Some of these were: ‘Iceland’s government will pay men who marry an Icelandic woman’, ‘Oxford University will give women more time to do their examinations’ or ‘Saudi scientists conform that woman is a mammal but not human’. The report concludes that false news items construct arguments that generate the idea that women are inferior, rhetoric contrary to gender policies and elements that undermine movements for gender equality.

Possible pretensions of fake news

Fake news, which takes prominence in different contexts like politics or economics, among others, insist on the modus vivendi, the population’s opinions and decisions, and, as they have a high level of virality, contents are spread and consumed instantly, anywhere, via a connection to Internet. If they can affect election results, counter certain policies or create uncertainty among the population, how can fake news have an impact on security? Would it be convenient to access the state legislative agenda or would it be better to create a manual of global good practices to educate citizens about the consumption of truthful and verified information? These are the new settings brought about by the new Internet era, globalisation and emerging technologies, which are evolving faster and faster both in terms of quantity and quality.

[1] Fake news: Completely or partly false information presented as news by different types of platforms.

[2] MalditoBulo: part of a journalist project maldita.es aimed at giving readers tools to enable them to distinguish fake news.

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