A guide to anti-misinformation actions around the world

This article has been updated since it was published March 14. Masato Kajimoto and Alexander Damiano Ricci contributed reporting.

BRUSSELS — In mid-March, a European Commission high level group published its final report on misinformation, drawing upon the input of experts from around the world who gathered over several weeks to help the European Union figure out what to do about misinformation.

The report created by the high-level group — announced in November to help the EU craft policies to address growing concern about misinformation in Europe — contains an inclusive, collaborative approach to addressing misinformation around the world (Disclosure: Poynter attended the meetings as one of the experts).

The report, while imperfect, explicitly recommends not regulating against misinformation — but the EU is only one of many governing bodies that have sought to stem the flow of online misinformation over the past few months.

Spanning from Brazil to South Korea, these efforts raise questions about infringing free speech guarantees and are frequently victims of uncertainty. The muddying of the definition of fake news, the relative reach of which is still being studied, hinders governments’ ability to accomplish anything effective.

In the spirit of this confusion, explained in detail in a recent Council of Europe report, Poynter has created a guide for existing attempts to legislate against what can broadly be referred to as online misinformation. While not every law contained here relates to misinformation specifically, they’ve all often been wrapped into that broader discussion. We have attempted to label different interventions as clearly as possible.

Since these efforts seem to be announced weekly, this article will be updated on an ongoing basis. If you catch an error or know of an update in one of our summaries, email dfunke@poynter.org or use the Google Form at the bottom of this article and we’ll update as soon as possible.


Australia | Bangladesh | Belarus | Belgium | Brazil | Cambodia | Cameroon | China | Croatia | Denmark | Egypt | France | Germany | India | Indonesia | Ireland | Italy | Kazakhstan | Kenya | Malaysia | Myanmar | Nigeria | Pakistan | The Philippines | Russia | Rwanda | Saudi Arabia | Singapore | South Korea | Spain | Sri Lanka | Sweden | Taiwan | Tanzania | Turkey | Uganda | United Arab Emirates | United Kingdom | United States

Download the entire database in CSV format


Australia

Action: Government task force

Focus: Foreign disinformation campaigns*

In June, four units of the government set up a task force to identify potential cyberattacks and foreign influence campaigns targeting upcoming Australian elections.

The Electoral Integrity Assurance Task Force is led by the Home Affairs Department and was created amid ongoing warnings from the intelligence community about foreign interference in Australia, the Special Broadcasting Service reported.

*This effort does not directly target misinformation, as others have reported.

Bangladesh

Action: Law and arrests

Focus: Propaganda and media regulation

In October, the Bangladeshi government passed a bill that imprisons people for spreading “propaganda” about the 1971 war in which the country won independence from Pakistan. It also bans the posting of “aggressive and frightening” content.

The Economist reported that journalists were concerned. In August, a photographer was arrested for “spreading false information” after speaking in support of a student protest. He faces up to seven years in prison for spreading false news against the government under an act that has already been used to detain dozens of social media users over the past year, according to Freedom House.

Belarus

Action: Law

Focus: Misinformation

On June 14, lawmakers passed controversial amendments to Belarus’ media laws that allow the government to prosecute people who spread false information online.

One lawmaker said the legislation, which also allows for social media and other websites to be blocked if found in violation of the law, is aimed at bolstering citizens’ rights while also strengthening state information security.

On June 8, the Committee to Protect Journalists came out against the legislation, saying that it — in addition to separate legislation that aims to tighten Belarusian media regulations — could lead to more selective prosecution of journalists. According to Freedom House, the country already has no press freedom.

Belgium

Action: Expert group and media literacy campaign

Focus: Misinformation

In early May, Belgian Minister for the Digital Agenda Alexander De Croo announced two initiatives aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation online.

First, the government established an expert group of journalists and scholars to come up with potential solutions by June 25. Second, it launched a website to inform people about misinformation and implement a Reddit style of upvoting and downvoting proposed solutions from the government. A public debate also took place in Brussels on May 17.

Brazil

Action: Government task force, 20 draft bills and platform agreements

Focus: Election misinformation

The Federal Police’s announcement of a task force to “identify and punish the authors of ‘fake news’” first in the form of a tweeted statement Jan. 9.

That move mainly targets fake news stories dealing with October’s presidential election and echoes French President Emmanuel Macron’s own effort to curtail electoral misinformation. Agência Pública has also collected, 20 draft bills in the Brazilian Congress as of May 11 aimed at criminalizing the distribution of misinformation online ahead of the election.

The penalties range from fines starting at R$1,500 ($400) to up to eight years of in prison for crimes ranging from spreading fake news stories on social media to publishing inaccurate press accounts.

Despite the intense interest, what legislation will actually look like is still unclear. Lawmakers disagree over who should be punished for the dissemination of misinformation — creators, sharers or content providers. The bills also vary in terms of which parts of the law they propose to alter.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian government has also entered into an agreement with Facebook and Google that pledges the platforms to “combat disinformation generated by third parties,” The Rio Times reported in late June. However, the two-page document doesn’t include any new initiatives that the companies are starting specifically in Brazil. Supreme Court Justice Luiz Fux signed a similar agreement with Brazilian political parties earlier that month.

Cambodia

Action: Law

Focus: Misinformation

Cambodia expanded its crackdown on misinformation in the weeks leading up to the country’s late July election.

In May, the government passed a measure that gave it the authority to block media that it thinks threatens national security. The new expansion of the law means people could be jailed for two years and fined $1,000 for publishing fake news. The Guardian reported that three ministries have been assigned to monitor social media posts for potential violations.

It’s still unclear how the government is defining fake news. Deutsche Welle reported that one spokesperson for the ruling party said the law would apply “to some media in which they use the wrong information.”

Cameroon

Action: Arrests

Focus: Media regulation

In the global crackdown on misinformation, Cameroon has emerged as a key detainer of journalists.

According to CPJ’s annual census of imprisoned journalists, the country jailed four journalists for false news in 2018 — the second most in the world, after Egypt. The Washington Post reported in December that journalists covering violence between separatists and the government were primary targets.

Under Cameroonian law, it’s illegal to report “any news without being able to prove either its truth or that he had good reason to believe it to be true,” The Post reported.

China

Action: Laws and online reporting portal

Focus: Misinformation

China has some of the strictest laws in the world when it comes to misinformation.

In 2016, the government criminalized creating or spreading rumors that “undermine economic and social order,” Foreign Policy reported. Another law in 2017 requires social media platforms to solely republish and link to news articles from registered news media. This year, authorities went one step further and started requiring microblogging sites to highlight and refute rumors on their platforms.

In late August, Chinese authorities launched an app that lets people report potential fakery. Reuters reported that the app, which also leverages artificial intelligence to automatically detect rumors, has accounts on platforms like Weibo and WeChat, on which it broadcasts reports from state-owned media.

Croatia

Action: Bills

Focus: Hate speech*

Borrowing from similar efforts in Germany, the Croatian government announced in January that it’s working on a law to halt the spread of hate speech and misinformation on social media platforms.

The bill, which primarily takes aim at Facebook, endeavors to primarily educate citizens as opposed to sanctioning the spread of misinformation. While fact-checkers aren’t too sure about the specifics, experts say hate speech seems like a more natural area of regulation for lawmakers in Europe.

The draft bill is the product of a working group from the Central State Office for Digital Society, which concluded that hate speech, public incitement to violence and the spread of fake news should all be addressed in one law (only the first two are covered by the criminal code). The legislation is scheduled to be released by June.

*This law does not have enforceable mechanisms to combat misinformation, as others have reported.

Denmark

Action: Task force, media literacy campaign and government action plan*

Focus: Misinformation and media literacy

Taking a page from Sweden’s playbook in the fight against misinformation, the Danish government has set up a task force for addressing misinformation.

The group, which formed in September, is responsible for developing responses to widespread misinformation campaigns and foreign disinformation attacks. A task force within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also set up to discover new pieces of misinformation online, TjekDet.dk reported.

Last month, Danish authorities bolstered their efforts to get ahead of misinformation problems by repurposing some media literacy material from Sweden. The government is distributing brochures with tips on how to avoid falling for misinformation.

Finally, the Danish government has come up with a plan to avoid foreign interference in next year’s parliamentary elections. Among the action items include strengthening the Police Intelligence Service and the Defense Intelligence Service, as well as closer dialogue with the media companies and political parties.

*This does not directly address misinformation, as others have reported.

Egypt

Action: Law and arrests

Focus: Media regulation

The Egyptian government is now regulating social media accounts with large followings in an alleged attempt to cut down on misinformation.

Under the law, which passed in mid-July, any account or blog with more than 5,000 followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter will be treated like a media outlet, which — under the country’s existing laws — can be prosecuted for publishing “fake news.” The Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media will oversee the legislation’s enforcement.

In addition to punishing those who publish false information, the law requires websites to obtain a license from the Supreme Council or face suspension, fines or getting blocked altogether. The legislation, which doesn’t define fake news, was approved after consultation with journalists and other experts, Reuters reported.

While supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi say the new law safeguards freedom of expression, detractors point to Egypt’s penchant for jailing journalists on “fake news” charges as an indicator that it’s just a media censorship tactic. The country has no press freedom, according to Freedom House.

In September, the government began arresting people on “fake news” charges. One human rights activist was sentenced to two years in prison after posting a video criticizing the government over the level of sexual harassment in the country, the BBC reported. In October, an author was arrested on similar charges for his book challenging Egypt’s economic policies. Even the son of jailed former president Mohamed Morsi has been detained under the fake news law.

In December, CPJ found in its annual census of imprisoned journalists that Egypt leads the world in detaining journalists on “false news” charges with 19. CPJ called the arrests “fresh waves of repression,” and journalists there told Poynter they’re afraid to do their jobs for fear of arrest.

France

Action: Law

Focus: Election misinformation

In early January 2018, President Macron told journalists that he would be presenting a new law to fight the spread of misinformation during elections.

The law, which passed in November, provides a definition of “fake news”: “Inexact allegations or imputations, or news that falsely report facts, with the aim of changing the sincerity of a vote.” It’s designed to enact strict rules on the media during electoral campaigns and, more specifically, in the three months preceding any vote.

The legislation gives authorities the power to remove fake content spread via social media and even block the sites that publish it, as well as enforce more financial transparency for sponsored content, in the three months before election periods. That builds upon an 1881 law that outlaws the dissemination of “false news.”

The law contains three major provisions. First, a judge is authorized to act “proportionally” but “with any means” to halt the dissemination of misinformation before elections. For the judge to act, a specific request must be filed by political groups, public authorities or individuals. The judge “acts within a delay of 48 hours from the notification.”

Second, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be required to publish who has purchased sponsored content or campaign ads and for what price. That component takes a page from the United States’ Honest Ads legislation, which applies existing standards for TV and radio stations to social media.

And finally, the law grants the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA), the broadcasting regulator, new administrative and executive powers to ensure that platforms abide by the law. It will “publish a regular report” regarding the effectiveness of measures enacted by platforms. Additionally, the CSA can now “unilaterally” revoke the broadcast rights of TV and radio outlets operating on French territory who are found to work “under the control or influence of a foreign state” and “disseminate misinformation.”

After the French Constitutional Council published its opinion on the law May 4, the Cultural Affairs Committee of Parliament debated and amended the text to target the “manipulation of information” instead of “fake news.” The change reportedly protected satire from penalization under the regulation.

French lawmakers debated the proposed law on June 7, and it passed in early July. During election periods, the legislation will allow candidates to sue for the removal of contested news stories, Politico reported, and tech platforms will have to disclose the funding sources for sponsored content.

But it’s been met with pushback. More than 50 senators from the French Republican Party (LR) and the Centrist Union group appealed to the Constitutional court over the law, which is among the first of its kind in Europe. The lawmakers of the opposition parties argued that the law falls short of the principle of proportional justice, 20minutes reported.

Germany

Action: Law

Focus: Hate speech*

Having gone into effect Jan. 1, Germany’s law against hate speech on Facebook is perhaps the most realized — but often misunderstood — effort to quell potentially harmful content online.

The law, titled “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz” (NetzDG), forces online platforms to remove “obviously illegal” posts within 24 hours or risk fines of up to €50 million. Aimed at social networks with more than 2 million members — such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter — the law was passed in June 2017 and gave platforms until the end of the year to prepare for the regulation.

The law’s implementation points to the Bundestag’s willingness to move against questionable online content, but its enforcement has been rocky. A satirical magazine called Titanic published a piece with insults and was banned from Twitter, and even the minister of justice — who helped author the NetzDG — had his tweets censored.

In early March, officials considered revising the law following criticism that too much content was being blocked. Among those revisions includes allowing users to get incorrectly deleted content restored, as well as pushing social media companies to set up independent bodies to review questionable posts.

*This law does not have enforceable mechanisms to combat misinformation, as others have reported.

India

Action: Database, proposed state law, proposed law amendment and internet shutdowns

Focus: Misinformation

A state government in India is considering creating legislation aimed at punishing purveyors of online misinformation — specifically doctored photographs.

The Economic Times reported in mid-June that West Bengal officials want to clarify how the state could additionally prosecute the publication of misinformation. Currently, citizens can be jailed in the state for posting misinformation if it causes fear or alarm in the public.

In addition to bolstering existing law, West Bengal has been preparing a database of fake news stories distributed on social media over the past few years. It has also kept records of past offenders, The Times reported.

The efforts come amid rising tensions related to misinformation in India. Rumors on messaging platforms like WhatsApp have allegedly incited violence across the country and the national government itself has tried to issue anti-fake news guidelines in the past.

In October, Wired reported that the Indian government had turned off the internet more than 100 times over the past year to quell the spread of rumors on WhatsApp. The shutdowns have cost the country billions of dollars and are more frequent than in any other country, according to Freedom House.

In December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released draft changes to the 2000 IT Act that would require social media platforms to start tracing the originators of messages when compelled by the government. The effort is aimed at curbing the spread of unlawful content and misinformation on platforms like WhatsApp.

Indonesia

Action: Government task forces, arrests and site tracking

Focus: Misinformation

In January, President Joko Widodo appointed a head of the newly formed National Cyber and Encryption Agency to help intelligence agencies and law enforcement efforts combat online misinformation and hoaxes before nationwide regional polls that summer.

Reuters reported that the agency was hiring hundreds of people to “provide protection” to institutions online. While it’s still unclear what authority the body has, other agencies have arrested alleged perpetrators of online misinformation. The government has also been blocking websites that publish content deemed to be harmful for society.

The Jakarta Post reported that social media companies are also working with the government to block and remove fake content, as well as illegal media such as pornography. In late January, the government also deployed a tool that allegedly automatically tracks and reports sites publishing fake news stories.

In October, Bloomberg reported that the Indonesian government has a team of 70 engineers monitoring social media traffic 24 hours a day in an effort to detect online misinformation. The so-called “war room,” which is housed within the Ministry of Communications, is aimed at curbing the spread of falsities ahead of an election in April and has the authority to remove posts that spread false news under a 2008 law.

The government has taken other substantial actions against misinformation. Per Bloomberg, the government has also created a website where people can report potentially false news and figure out if it’s true or not. In September, the communications ministry announced that it would hold weekly briefings to debunk misinformation. And in April, officials threatened to shut down Facebook if it failed to crack down on misinformation ahead of the election.

In November, Voice of America reported that Indonesia’s National Police had arrested more than a dozen people who spread false information on social media. The minimum sentence under the law is four years.

Ireland

Action: Bill

Focus: Political bots and advertising*

Lawmakers introduced a bill in early December that would make using a bot to create multiple fake accounts posing as different people spreading political messages a criminal offense.

According to the bill, using a bot to create 25 or more personas on social media would be punishable by up to five years in prison or fines of up to €10,000. The legislation also takes a page from the Honest Ads bill proposed in the U.S. Congress, eliciting widespread coverage as a law condemning all misinformation — an error in nuance that even Poynter made.

The ruling party, which opposes the bill, lost a vote in parliament in mid-December and it has moved on to the committee stage, where it’s unlikely to progress further.

*This law does not deal directly with misinformation, as others have reported.

Italy

Action: Online reporting portal, arrest and authority report

Focus: Misinformation and fake reviews

A little more than a month before the general election, the Italian government announced Jan. 18 that it had set up an online portal where citizens could report misinformation to the police.

The service, which prompts users for their email addresses, a link to the fake news story or fabricated media and any social media networks they saw it on, ferries reports to the Polizia Postale, a unit of the state police that investigates cyber crime. The department will fact-check them and — if laws were broken — pursue legal action. At the very least, the service will draw upon official sources to deny false or misleading information.

That plan came amid a national frenzy over misinformation leading into the March 4 election and suffered from the same vagueness as the ones in Brazil, Croatia and France: a lacking definition of what constitutes “fake news.”

In a landmark ruling in September, a man was sentenced to prison for nine months for selling fake TripAdvisor reviews to restaurants and hotels, The Washington Post reported. The court decided that creating a false identity to write fraudulent reviews violated Italian law.

In late November, AGCOM, the country’s communications authority released a report on misinformation.

Kazakhstan

Action: Criminal investigation

Focus: Media regulation

In March, the Kazakh government opened a criminal investigation into two news outlets for allegedly publishing false information.

According to Freedom House, Ratel and Forbes.kz faced criminal charges for spreading false information after the outlets published stories accusing a former top government official of corruption. After the former official filed a formal complaint, police interrogated journalists, executed search warrants and blocked Ratel’s website.

Under Kazakh law, “disseminating knowingly false information” carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, Human Rights Watch reported. The country scored “not free” in terms of press freedom, according to Freedom House.

Kenya

Action: Law

Focus: Misinformation

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a bill May 16 criminalizing 17 different types of cybercrimes, including cyberbullying, espionage and computer forgery. And misinformation made the cut.

Under the law, people who knowingly share false or misleading information in an attempt to make it look real can be fined up to 5,000,000 shilling (nearly $50,000) or imprisoned for up to two years. Before Kenyatta signed the bill, there were calls for Parliament to review it to make sure it didn’t violate free speech provisions.

On May 10, the Committee to Protect Journalists came out against this law, saying that it would “criminalize free speech, with journalists and bloggers likely to be among the first victims.”

Malaysia

Action: Law

Focus: Misinformation

Malaysia made it a crime in early April to share misinformation, becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so.

Lawmakers in one house of parliament voted to repeal the legislation in mid-August after voters booted out the governing party. The Guardian reported that a senior official said the police would instead be given new powers to deal with the “phenomenon” of misinformation. But the new opposition to the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad blocked the repeal in the upper house of parliament in mid-September.

Malaysia’s new prime minister indicated in mid-May that he intended for the law to stay, albeit with a clearer definition of fake news. However, on May 22, the country’s new communications and multimedia minister said the law would be repealed, and in late June, the new government was seeking to repeal the law by the summer.

The law makes publishing or sharing fake news punishable by up to six years in jail and a fine of 500,000 ringgit ($128,000). It also makes online service providers more responsible for third-party content, affects foreign news outlets reporting on Malaysia and anyone can lodge a complaint against an alleged purveyor of misinformation. Representatives from social media companies like Facebook and Google met with lawmakers in Kuala Lumpur in mid-March to get their views on the law.

The previous government opposition argued the definition of what constitutes fake news — “any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas” — was too vague and that the law is an effort to stifle free speech ahead of the August election.

In late April, the first person arrested under the law was a Danish citizen for “inaccurate criticism of police on social media,” Reuters reported. He posted a YouTube video accusing Malaysian officials of taking 50 minutes to respond to a shooting on April 21, which police said actually took eight minutes.

Myanmar

Action: Law and arrests

Focus: Misinformation

In mid-October, three journalists were jailed in Myanmar after publishing a story about the Yangon regional government, which claimed the article was false.

AP reported that the story, which was published by Eleven Media Group, alleged that the government misused public money. Officials argued that the editor-in-chief, managing editor and reporter of the news outlet violated a law that prohibits the publication of “incorrect information” that causes “fear or alarm to the public.”

The journalists could face up to two years in prison and a fine.

Nigeria

Action: Media literacy campaign and state radio broadcasts

Focus: Media literacy and misinformation

In response to growing concerns and tensions related to misinformation, Nigeria has launched a campaign aimed at making people more critical news consumers.

The Premium Times reported the information minister, Lai Mohammed, is planning collaborations with digital and print media, as well as the National Orientation Agency, to teach Nigerians how to tell what’s real and fake online. Mohammed said the government wouldn’t resort to “coercion or censorship.”

In November, the BBC reported that the army had started debunking Facebook misinformation on a live radio broadcast. It has also set up hotlines for citizens to report misinformation, and some police officers are using their personal Facebook pages to debunk it.

Pakistan

Action: Government Twitter account

Focus: Misinformation

In early October, the Pakistani government started going after misinformation on a platform where it regularly appears: Twitter.
Dawn reported reported that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting launched an account called Fake News Buster in an attempt to debunk “fake and negative propaganda” online. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told the news outlet that the government would additionally take action against those that spread misinformation.

The Philippines

Action: Dismissed bill

Focus: Misinformation

In February, the chair of the Senate’s Committee on Public Information and Mass Media filed a bill that would hold government officials accountable for spreading false information.

However, the measure was challenged as unconstitutional, and President Rodrigo Duterte has said in the past that such a law would never pass. Duterte has usedthe term “fake news” as an epithet for media outlets he dislikes, and even has been accused of spreading misinformation himself.

Russia

Action: Bill and joint cybersecurity group

Focus: Misinformation and election misinformation

In the midst of heated discussions about the role of the Russian government in propagating misinformation around the world, the country has introduced its own anti-misinformation bill.

The New York Times reported that the legislation, which lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party submitted in mid-July, would hold social networks accountable for inaccurate comments that users post. Websites that have a commenting feature and amass more than 100,000 visitors every day will be required to remove false comments within 24 hours or be fined up to 50 million rubles (about $800,000).

The legislation has passed one of three votes in parliament, The Times reported. Social media platforms say they can’t possibly weed out every false comment on a daily basis, and critics say the law gives Russia — which Freedom House says has no press freedom — more censorship capabilities.

In December, the Russian Duma introduced an additional package of bills that would wage fines of up to 1 million rubles ($15,000) for sharing false information online. Specifically, the legislation would ban “untruthful socially significant information disguised as authentic reports, which poses a threat to people’s lives and health and is fraught with mass violations of public order and security, disruption in the operation of crucial life support facilities, transport, and social infrastructures or other grave consequences.”

In November, Russia signed a pact with Spain to create a joint cybersecurity group aimed at preventing misinformation from affecting diplomatic relations between the two. The move came after Spanish ministers accused Russia of spreading misinformation about the Catalan referendum.

Rwanda

Action: Arrests

Focus: Media regulation

In March, the Rwandan government sentenced a blogger to 10 years in prison for spreading rumors and inciting civil disobedience after questioning the state’s narrative on the 1994 genocide there, according to Freedom House.

In its annual census of imprisoned journalists around the world, CPJ found that the country jailed the third most journalists on false news charges in 2018, with three.

Saudi Arabia

Action: Government threats

Focus: Misinformation

After the reported murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October, Saudi authorities started threatening people who post “fake news” online with up to five years in prison and heavy fines.

Gizmodo reported that officials cited Article 6 of Saudi Arabia’s cybercrimes regulations, which makes it a crime to breach “public order, religious values, public morals and privacy.”

Singapore

Action: Parliamentary report

Focus: Misinformation

In January, Parliament voted to create a committee focused on addressing how best to address the problem of misinformation online. Idea submissions from journalists, advocacy groups and others were made public in February.

In March, the government held an eight-day hearing on “deliberate online falsehoods.” It is now working to create a report and potential legislation on the issue — but it’s reportedly in no rush to do so.

In a 300-page parliamentary report published in late September, the government laid out 22 recommendations for combating the spread of misinformation online. Key among those is a call for legislation that will halt the spread of misinformation “in a matter of hours,” Bloomberg reported.

The report also posited that people who deliberately publish false information online should be prosecuted and that the government should work to disrupt advertising for fake news publishers — steps the committee said were necessary since tech companies alone can’t halt the spread of misinformation. Facebook and Google pushed back against potential legislation in Singapore, which Freedom House says has no press freedom, during March hearing.

Finally, the committee recommended the creation of a coalition of fact-checking organizations, news outlets and “industry partners” to debunk falsehoods online, The Strait Times reported. It’s still unclear to what extent the government would play a role in it, but the report suggests that the government could provide some sort of assistance.

In December, Channel NewsAsia reported that draft legislation could be tabled by the first half of 2019.

South Korea

Action: Government task force and proposed law amendments

Focus: Misinformation

The National Assembly has more than a dozen pending law amendments aimed at curbing the effect of misinformation online — about half of which call on platforms to self-regulate false content. One would criminalize the use of bots to manipulate online commenting.

At the same time, the ruling party has used a misinformation countermeasure task force to file about 500 complaints against people allegedly publishing problematic content.

In October, the government took additional action against misinformation, with Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon ordering police to punish those who “generate fake news with malicious intent and systemically spread it,” The New York Times reported. He also told a government regulatory agency to take action against websites that harbor fake news and advocated for a new law regulating its spread.

Spain

Action: Committee recommendation and joint cybersecurity group

Focus: Misinformation and election misinformation

In early March, the National Security Commission of the Congress of Deputies passed a proposal asking the government to take action against misinformation online.

In the non-binding recommendation, the committee requested that the government cooperate with the EU in developing strategies against misinformation. The proposal was voted down by the left-wing coalition.

In November, Russia signed a pact with Spain to create a joint cybersecurity group aimed at preventing misinformation from affecting diplomatic relations between the two. The move came after Spanish ministers accused Russia of spreading misinformation about the Catalan referendum.

Sri Lanka

Action: Internet shutdowns

Focus: Misinformation

Following India’s example, the Sri Lankan government has also shut down mobile phone networks and social media platforms in an effort to slow the spread of misinformation that has led to violence, according to Freedom House.

Sweden

Action: Government authority

Focus: Foreign disinformation campaigns

Ahead of this fall’s general election, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced a new “psychological defense” authority in mid-January aimed at countering disinformation and foreign influence campaigns.

Building off both the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and the parliamentary Defense Commission, the authority would “ensure that factual public information can be quickly and effectively communicated even under disruptive conditions, as well as identify, analyze and confront influencing operations.”

On the whole, Sweden’s proposed authority has a different flavor than those in other countries; rather than attempting to directly fight false or misleading information, it instead is aimed at promoting factual content. A start date for the body has not yet been set.

Taiwan

Action: Bill

Focus: Misinformation

Taiwanese lawmakers are considering adding a clause to the state’s Social Order Maintenance Act that criminalizes the spread of misinformation.

Under the new law, which the ruling Democratic Progressive Party introduced in early June, people who publish misinformation online could be punished by up to three days in jail or a fine of up to $30,000 New Taiwan dollars (US$1,000). The existing regulation already imposes fines and prison time for anyone who spreads rumors.

In mid-June, the bill was assigned to a committee for review and consultation with experts and stakeholders. CPJ reported the bill could be back in parliament for readings in mid-September.

Tanzania

Action: Blog licensing

Focus: Media regulation*

Tanzania is taking advantage of growing concern about online misinformation to levy new regulations against online publishers.

The Financial Times reported that the government plans to charge bloggers about $920 a year for the privilege of publishing online — in a country with a nominal per capita income of less than $900.

The Tanzanian government says the move is an effort to curtail lies online by passing costs on to publishers. The High Court paused the May 5 implementation after activists and media outlets challenged it, but it later passed.

Violators will be fined a minimum of five million Tanzanian shillings (US $2,202), jailed for no less than a year or both. The Verge reported that the law has already discouraged many young content creators to go offline.

*This law does not address misinformation directly, as others have reported.

Turkey

Action: Investigation

Focus: Misinformation

Amid an ongoing economic crisis in Turkey, the government launched an investigation into what it’s calling fake news stories aimed at manipulating the economy.

The Capital Markets Board said that it would seek legal action against individuals who publish “erroneous and fabricated news and statements” about banks, companies and financial institutions, The Financial Times reported. The potential punishment could be between two and five years in prison, as well as fines.

In addition, the Interior Ministry opened an investigation into 346 social media accounts that “provoke the currency rate increase,” CNN reported.

Uganda

Action: Social media tax

Focus: Internet regulation*

A new tax in Uganda that charges citizens for the ability to use social media platforms went into effect July 1.

The tax, which President Yoweri Museveni introduced in May reportedly to cut down on the spread of gossip, is primarily aimed at creating another revenue stream for the government. The government — which shut down social mediaduring the 2016 election — is charging mobile phone users 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) for using platforms like WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter, and Skype. Museveni compared the platforms to commodities like alcohol and tobacco.

While it’s still unclear how the government is going to detect when users log into social media accounts and then tax them, critics say the law is an attempt to co-opt concerns about misinformation to further regulate free speech. Uganda has partial press freedom, according to Freedom House.

*This does not directly address misinformation, as others have reported.

United Arab Emirates

Action: Government threats

Focus: Misinformation

During a talk in October, a Dubai police official told citizens that sharing misinformation on social media is a crime punishable by law. Under the law, sharing rumors online could merit a fine of up to Dh1 million (roughly $272,250).

United Kingdom

Action: Parliamentary report and task force

Focus: Misinformation and foreign disinformation campaigns*

After 18 months of thinking about how the government should address misinformation, U.K. lawmakers published a report on July 29.

The recommendations that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Parliament issued include: a rejection of the term “fake news,” applying existing media regulations to online news and the creation of a working group to research how misinformation spreads.

The British government has also set up the National Security Communications Unit, which is tasked with “combating disinformation by state actors and others.” That decision came amid an investigation of Russia’s reported use of fake social media accounts to spread misinformation about the Brexit referendum in summer 2016.

While details are scant, The Conversation reported that the initiative echoes a Cold War-era tactic.

*It’s not clear that this effort targets misinformation instead of propaganda, as others have reported.

United States

Action: Proposed federal law, platform testimonies, failed state advisory group, state media literacy law, threat assessment and state media literacy initiatives

Focus: Political ads, foreign disinformation, general misinformation, media literacy and deepfake videos

Confirmed by intelligence agencies, Russian meddling on social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election has resulted in several piecemeal actions from the federal government.

First, Congress announced a bill in October 2017 that would require online platforms such as Facebook and Google to keep copies of ads, make them public and keep tabs on who is paying — and how much. Essentially, the legislation attempts to impose existing TV and radio ad regulations on social media companies.

Then, in November 2017, representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testified to a Senate judiciary committee on their role in spreading disinformation during the election. During that meeting, there was broad consensus that Russia did manipulate their platforms, but the platforms projected an appearance of control when it comes to monitoring fake accounts and ad buyers.

Meanwhile, the California state government passed a law in September that bolsters media literacy in public schools. It requires the Department of Education to list instructional materials and resources on how to evaluate trustworthy media. The law was inspired by a Stanford University student who found that most students can’t distinguish between sponsored content and news stories and comes amid several current and former attempts to improve media literacy in at least 24 states.

Also in California, Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have created an advisory group aimed at monitoring the spread of misinformation on social media and coming up with potential solutions. The group, which Brown called “not necessary,” would have asked social media companies, NGOs and First Amendment scholars to present their findings by Dec. 31, 2019.

Finally, two Democrats and one Republican representative sent a letter to the director of national intelligence in mid-September asking the intelligence community to assess the possible national security threats posed by deepfake technology and present a report to Congress by the end of 2018. Lawmakers cited the potential for foreign adversaries to use deepfake videos against U.S. interests as a key reason to investigate them.


Are we missing a proposed law or other action against online misinformation? Email dfunke@poynter.org or use the form below and we’ll update the story accordingly.


Updates

Jan. 8: The sections for Bangladesh, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and the United States were updated with the latest news. New entries were created for Cameroon, Kazakhstan, Rwanda and Sri Lanka.

Oct. 31: The sections for Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United States were updated with the latest news. New entries were created for Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sept. 25: The sections for Brazil, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States were updated with the latest news. New entries were created for Australia and Turkey.

July 24: The sections for France, Tanzania and Uganda were updated with the latest news. New entries were created for Cambodia, Denmark, Egypt, Nigeria, Russia and Taiwan.

July 2: The sections for France, Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. were updated with the latest news. New entries were created for Belarus and India.

May 22: The sections for Brazil and Malaysia were updated with the latest news. New entries were created for Belgium, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

April 9: The section for Malaysia was updated with the latest news.


Corrections

Oct. 31: A previous version of this story stated that Malaysia’s anti-misinformation law had been repealed, per a report from The Guardian. In fact, the law had only been repealed by one house of Parliament, not two.

April 9: A previous version of this story stated that an Irish bill aimed at criminalizing the creation of multiple fake social media accounts to spread political messages was downvoted in parliament. In fact, the bill criminalizes the creation of multiple accounts only if they’re made to look like different people, and the bill was downvoted by the ruling party but passed by a narrow margin to the committee stage.

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