Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow is working with a Parliamentary Select Committee to examine the impact on society of disinformation and ‘fake news’, particularly that disseminated via social media platforms.
Ms Pow said, “There’s no denying that our society is increasingly addicted to devices that deliver a constant stream of information and messages via Facebook, Twitter, Google and the internet in general. On average 16 to 24 year olds look at their phones every 6.4 minutes during a 16 hour day and during this time they will be unwittingly targeted by a great deal of ‘fake news.’
“For the past 10 months I have been on the intense Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into disinformation and ‘fake news’, looking at how this is disseminated through social media and the affect it is having on society.
“The term ‘fake news’ should not be taken lightly, what fake news can be is the deliberate targeting of people with campaigns of disinformation designed to confuse and mislead and ultimately influence their actions in an alarming manner of areas by playing on their fears and prejudices. Our evidence suggested this can influence their voting plans and behaviour.
“With its 2 billions users, you can appreciate how powerfully Facebook might be harnessed to do this and how difficult it might be to distinguish between what’s true and what’s fake.
“Our inquiry discovered that society faces real dangers from the spread of this ‘disinformation’ and ‘misinformation’ without people’s consent. We have called urgently for “absolute transparency of online political campaigning” with a requirement for social media giants to be classified neither as “publishers” nor “platforms” but legally redefined in a new, third category that radically enhances their accountability for the content they host, without imperilling free political discourse.
“We have also recommended a new kitemarking-type system be introduced so people can clearly see the level of verification of information on a site (how ‘true’ the information is.) Critically we call for children to be educated so as to be ‘digitally literate’ from a young age so that they can distinguish between true and false and potential manipulation. This could be funded through an educational levy paid by social media companies.
“This may all sound far fetched, but whether you live in Taunton, Wellington or all places in between the threats are real and must be addressed and I shall be ensuring Government takes this recommendations on board.”