Rise of fake news undermines public health and political stability

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Yet examples abroad provide a warning for Australia about governments going too far and using the cover of fake news as a weapon against political dissent.

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La Trobe University’s in-depth study on the regulation of online disinformation in the Asia-Pacific region titled Fight fake news released today, finds that many early adopters of fake news laws give politicians the power to act both as arbiter – defining what false information is – and enforcer.

Despite the extent of online disinformation in Indonesia, which has led to real-world violence against minorities and religious groups, laws to deal with it can silence critics with major implications for freedom of movement. expression, media freedom and political debate. Indonesia’s 2016 Electronic Information and Transaction (EIT) Act has led political opponents accused of disseminating fake news punishable by jail time (up to 6 years) and heavy fines (up to 69 $ 000).

While Singapore’s Protection Against Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act 2019 (POFMA) has so far mainly targeted opposition groups and journalists.

While these nations are not categorized as liberal democracies like Australia, they are a powerful reminder that when it comes to regulating fake news, we have to be careful what we wish for.

Singapore has taken a strong stand against those who promote information deemed to be false or misleading.Credit:PA

Finding the right balance between freedom of speech (responsible) and government overbreadth is essential for a strong democracy.

Europe is a benchmark for self-regulated online content. It focuses on combating disinformation – generally seen as false information disseminated by malicious actors with intent to cause harm – but COVID-19 has challenged this mission because disinformation, often seen as false information disseminated without malicious intent. , can also cause damage.

These legislative and regulatory choices about how to react to fake news come at a critical time, as media and political freedoms are threatened around the world. Illiberal and liberal governments presided over what Freedom House nonprofit describes for 15 years as an “attack” on democracy.

He warns that digital platforms are the new frontier in this global attack on freedoms. The majority of countries that have adopted fake news laws already restrict the political rights and civil liberties of their citizens and rank low on a democracy scoreboard.

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Our study, based on expert interviews with journalists, academics, digital platform providers, fact-checkers and human rights activists in Asia, reveals that disinformation is a global problem that requires a multi-party approach. shutters.

This includes strengthening non-regulatory measures (some already used by digital platforms) such as verification through third-party fact-checking, using AI to remove harmful content, improving transparency of user accounts, support for quality journalism and academic research (as shown by La Trobe’s study).

The “War Room” election is symbolic of Facebook's work to allay public concerns about fake accounts, disinformation and foreign interference on its site that obscures discussion about the election.

The “War Room” election is symbolic of Facebook’s work to allay public concerns about fake accounts, disinformation and foreign interference on its site that obscures discussion about the election. Credit:Bloomberg

Since disinformation is a widely shared problem, its mitigation must be a responsibility widely shared by all concerned – from tech companies, governments, politicians, mainstream media, civil society and us: the online users.

Unless it is recognized that this is a complex, multi-faceted problem that requires more than pointing the finger at platforms, we will fail.

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It is also the responsibility of platforms to do more. Despite the difficulty of measuring disinformation online, more transparency about the extent of the problem and how it is handled is needed. This includes promoting existing measures to improve media literacy of platform users. Platforms need to work more cooperatively with each other and local communities to share information about emerging disinformation campaigns to stem their viral spread.

The current lack of clarity of definitions is a major obstacle to progress. Hopefully Australia’s highly anticipated code gives us a clear direction so we can all join the fight against fake news.

Andrea Carson is Associate Professor (Journalism) in the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University. His study, Fighting Fake News: A Study on the Regulation of Online Disinformation in the Asia-Pacific Region, is released on Thursday.

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