Here's how the U.K. plans to tackle fake news

The Week in Fact-Checking is a newsletter about fact-checking and accountability journalism, from Poynter's International Fact-Checking Network & the American Press Institute's Accountability Project. Sign up here.

The British solution to misinformation: Intervention

How should governments address the ongoing threat of misinformation? In the United Kingdom, lawmakers have spent about 18 months thinking about that question — and they’ve come up with a few ideas.

In a special report released Sunday, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Parliament issued its recommendations for combating the spread of misinformation on social media, including:

  • A rejection of the term “fake news” in favor of “misinformation” and “disinformation”
  • Applying existing accuracy and impartiality regulations for TV and radio to online media
  • The creation of a working group of experts to research how misinformation spreads — and how fact-checking can help stop it

The report, which was leaked before publication to a former strategist for the Brexit Vote Leave campaign, also condemns Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation in countries like Myanmar, where the platform has been used to target the Rohingya Muslims.

“We urge the Government to demonstrate how seriously it takes Facebook’s apparent collusion in spreading disinformation in Burma, at the earliest opportunity,” it reads.

Meanwhile, fact-checkers say the report contains some promising steps, such as the tightening of advertising regulations on social media. But it fails to take into account the potential for government overreach.

“This conversation is going on around the world, and the reactions of governments to this fear of misinformation and disinformation have been in places quite scary,” said Will Moy, director of Full Fact, on a BBC morning show. “I would have liked to see (members of Parliament) acknowledge that one of the biggest risks here is actually government overreacting.”

By Poynter’s tally, more than 25 countries around the world have taken actions against misinformation, ranging from criminalizing fake news to promoting digital literacy. Know of another update we should include? Email dfunke@poynter.org.

This is how we do it

  • The IFCN has redesigned its code of principles in both form and substance. Check it out.
  • First Draft and Witness teamed up to brainstorm potential solutions for detecting and debunking deepfake videos.
  • The Duke Reporters’ Lab is partnering with the Raleigh News & Observer and the University of North Carolina to expand fact-checking throughout the state.

This is bad

  • Facebook identified an ongoing political influence campaign that used inauthentic pages and profiles to sow division ahead of this fall’s American midterm elections.
  • Conspiracy theories are hijacking YouTube search results for celebrities.
  • Snopes fired its managing editor — and she still doesn’t know why.

GP
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow at the Frederique Constant Launch Party in London, Thursday, June 21, 2018. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

This is fun

  • Goop is prime fodder for satirists — and McSweeney’s covered its recent decision to hire a fact-checker.
  • Snopes is in an ongoing feud with one of the most notorious hoaxers on the internet.
  • Cable news chyrons are increasingly being used for fact-checking, Paul Farhi wrote in a well-produced story for The Washington Post. Here are some tips from 2016 on how to do it right.

Coming up

  • Bellingcat is hiring a full-time editor to oversee its digital investigations. Apply ASAP.
  • Poynter is hiring an editor and program manager for its MediaWise project, which is aimed at media literacy and fact-checking for teenagers. Apply by Aug. 17.
  • Are you a journalism educator or researcher? Join the IFCN’s pool of assessors and help vet fact-checkers before they join our code of principles.

Silicon Valley
(Shutterstock)

A closer look

  • It feels like every week there’s a new scandal in Silicon Valley. But The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal says each one tells us something about the tech industry’s biggest challenges.
  • Last week, an old PolitiFact screenshot was used to attack one of Donald Trump’s tweets — and it wasn’t the first time a fact-checker had been targeted by misinformation.
  • Facebook suspended InfoWars host Alex Jones from posting to the site for 30 days, citing a violation of the company’s policies. But Jones’ show is still streaming unabated, and his colleagues can still operate his pages.

If you read one more thing

A lot of the hysterics about online misinformation posit that, once people start doubting everything, nothing will be true anymore. Meedan’s An Xiao Mina has a great Twitter thread on why that’s not necessarily the case.

7 quick fact-checking links

  1. Speaking of inauthentic accounts and pages: After Facebook removed nearly 200 in Brazil, far-right activists protested the company’s fact-checking partners.
  2. No, Twitter isn’t shadow-banning Republicans. Here’s why.
  3. A once-lucrative, American hyperpartisan news site is now being rented out to an Indian publisher.
  4. Fiat's Sergio Marchionne died July 25 and his legacy is hotly contested. Pagella Politica fact-checked a viral claim about layoffs during his tenure.
  5. Daniel was on Al Jazeera Arabic on Monday to talk about what WhatsApp is doing to counter misinformation.
  6. There were plenty of T-shirts for the QAnon conspiracy theory at a Trump rally in Tampa this week.
  7. Italian lawmakers nominated Marcello Foa, a journalist who has often shared fake news on social media, to be president of the state broadcaster Rai. Then a parliamentary committee rejected him.

Until next week,

Daniel and Alexios

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