Govt Report Brands Satire, Parody ‘Fake News’, Calls for Social Media Re-education, Online Media Controls

AFP/Miguel SCHINCARIOL
AFP Miguel/SCHINCARIOL

A parliamentary inquiry has demanded news websites are ranked on perceived reliability by a state-sanctioned body and controlled by “impartiality” rules, and said social media firms should fund education for citizens on what news to trust.

Bizarrely, the interim report into “fake news” from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee – which is made up of anti-Brexit MPs – also says satire and parody should be included in the definition of ‘Fake News’.

It further calls for all political ads to be registered, massively increased fines for perceived wrongs during campaigns, and social media platforms to be held responsible for ‘fake news’ on their platforms.

All social media firms should pay out for re-educating people, it says, with government pushing “for an educational levy to be raised by social media companies, to finance a comprehensive media educational framework”.

On regulation, they demand existing “accuracy and impartiality” rules for television and radio be extended to “online content”. This could mean online news being forced to operate like the BBC, proclaiming to be impartial rather than being open about their political leanings.

“There is no regulatory body that oversees social media platforms and written content including printed news content, online, as a whole,” it says, adding: “However, in the UK… standards for television and radio broadcasters, including rules relating to accuracy and impartiality” are enforced, at least in theory.

On the ranking of websites, they write: “We recommend that the Government initiate a working group of experts to create a credible annotation of standards, so that people can see, at a glance, the level of verification of a site.

“This would help people to decide on the level of importance that they put on those sites,” the MPs added.

Damian Collins MP, Chairman of the Committee, said: “We are facing nothing less than a crisis in our democracy – based on the systematic manipulation of data to support the relentless targeting of citizens, without their consent, by campaigns of disinformation and messages of hate.”

The report also calls for all political advertising to be declared in a public register and for all ads to come with an imprint so it is clear where they came from.

The authors slam what they perceive as the “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans”.

Dominic Cummings, the former strategist for the Vote Leave campaign, was leaked the report before its publication “by someone in Parliament fed up with Collins’ dishonesty and blatant use of [Guardian reporter Carole Cadwalladr’s] conspiracies for his own end of overturning the [EU] referendum result”.

He slammed the committee and report in a blog post as “in keeping with their general behaviour, itself fake news”.

“The report knowingly/incompetently makes false claims regarding Vote Leave, AIQ ,and BeLeave,” he adds, claiming they follow “Carole’s original loony conspiracy theory”.

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