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‘Fake News’ Causing Populism, Must be Censored, Says Italy’s Antitrust Chief

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European Union (EU) nations must set up a network of public agencies to remove ‘fake news’ from circulation and impose fines, Italy’s antitrust chief has said.

Asserting that ‘fake news’ is driving populism, Giovanni Pitruzzella told the Financial Times the internet must not be allowed to remain a “wild west”.

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The head of Italy’s competition body since 2011, he said the speed at which so-called fake news is censored “is a critical element”, and argued that such a task should be tackled by the state, and not be left to social media companies.

Mr. Pitruzzella said countries in Europe should set up independent bodies which could quickly remove ‘fake news’ and impose fines. These would be coordinated by Brussels, and modeled on how the EU regulates competition.

“Post-truth in politics is one of the drivers of populism and it is one of the threats to our democracies,” Mr. Pitruzzella said.

“We have reached a fork in the road: we have to choose whether to leave the internet like it is, the wild west, or whether it needs rules that appreciate the way communication has changed. I think we need to set those rules and this is the role of the public sector.”

Allies of Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister, have complained that fake news contributed to his defeat in the December referendum on constitutional reform, even though he lost by a wide 20-percentage point margin. The outcome of the vote was a huge victory for populists and a blow to the EU.

While he welcomed measures recently announced by Facebook to counter “fake news”,  the antitrust chief said it’s “not the job of a private entity to control information.

“This is historically the job of public powers. They have to guarantee that information is correct. We cannot delegate this completely.”

Mr. Pitruzzella said “speed is a critical element” in the tackling of so-called fake news, and that a huge benefit to having a state agency would be its ability to “intervene quickly if public interests were harmed”. The Italian dismissed concerns that having a public body oversee the removal of content it deems ‘fake news’ is a form of censorship, claiming people could “continue using a free and open internet”.

Facebook has announced it will introduce warning labels on stories they consider ‘fake news,’ with the help of partisan “fact-checking” organisations. Stories deemed to be false will now be “flagged” by Facebook, with an accompanying red label claiming the story is “disputed by 3rd Party Fact-Checkers.”

Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros is among the left-wing funders of the body Facebook has partnered with to determine whether a story is “disputed”, the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). Furthermore, a number of the third party members signed up to the IFCN, such as Africa Check, are projects set up and funded by the open borders, anti-law and order fanatic’s Open Societies Foundation.


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