October 29, 2018
Despite the rising awareness for the causes against fake news following the Cambridge Analytica incident, it appears as if the government is still unable to take the necessary steps ‘to protect democracy’.
Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports committee’s chair Damian Collins has publicly criticised ministers for delaying urgent actions against the spread of misinformation. This war against fake news, data privacy, and content manipulation has started thanks to the Cambridge Analytica case. We detected its large scale effect when Facebook took huge steps to make its platform more secure by taking down multiple fake accounts, as well as when the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency started investing technologies to validate deep fake videos. As well as this, digital media accounts of conspiracy theorists, such as Alex Jones have also been taken down by major social media platforms.
While all this was being actioned by the tech giants and certain departments of government, it was becoming more and more apparent that the administration is seriously lagging behind the exponential technological advancements. We have already witnessed that through the OMB report, which called out the US’s federal agencies position for being untenable against high-tech data attacks.
In the UK, the situation is becoming clearer as the government has failed to take the necessary and urgent steps against fake news.
A report published by the DCMS committee in the month of July warned that the uncurbed fake news is posing serious threats against the values of democracy by targeting ‘hyper-partisan views’. The report clarified that such news has a huge impact on people. By playing around with their prejudices and fears, these can very easily influence their voting powers.
It was the government’s response to this warning that has led the MP to publicly acknowledge their disappointment.
The said response included the government’s thoughts that it will “reduce the impact of disinformation on UK society and our national interests, in line with our democratic values”. However, it has delayed all its decisions so it can wait for further reports. It has promised that after getting a consultation from other grounds, it will invoke Electoral Commission’s powers to regulate digital advertising during elections. However, Mr. Collins suggests that ministers are only making excuses, “further delaying the desperately needed announcements on the ongoing issues of harmful and misleading content being spread through social media”.
The MPs have given 42 recommendations to deal with the issue at hand, but the ministers have only accepted three, one of which includes forcing social media advertisers to show an ‘imprint’ on political ads to clarify who has paid for those advertisements. The committee thinks this will improve transparency.
While there are many disagreements between the two parties, one of the disagreements is that of the importance they both give to the involvement of Russian agencies in the creation of fake news. They do however agree on one point, that ‘fake news’ is a misleading term that hides the potential of manipulated content. Both parties have now agreed on calling such content ‘disinformation’, which it defines as “the deliberate creation and sharing of false and/or manipulated information that is intended to deceive and mislead audiences, either for the purposes of causing harm or for political, personal or financial gain”.
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