Editorial ( April 7, 2019)
Malign actors ranging from authoritarian states to extremist groups have been spreading “fake news” since long before the term was coined. The rise of social media has increased exponentially the speed and impact with which untruths can be disseminated. Yet plans like those unveiled by Singapore to impose direct penalties on purveyors of fake news are disturbing. Top-down approaches risk being abused and turning into censorship. The best way to tackle fake news is to teach consumers to identify and reject it.
Since the 2016 US general election, when fake news issues came to the public’s wider attention, the problem has mushroomed. The hegemonic struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East is now also played out online. Mob lynchings in India were driven by WhatsApp rumours. A study of social media activity found the gilets jaunes protests in France have caused a surge in fake news on Facebook.