Fake News ‘Crowding Out’ Real News, MPs
The volume of disinformation on the internet is growing so big that it is starting to crowd out real news, the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman has said. Tory MP Damian Collins said people struggle to identify “fake news”.
MPs in their committee report said the issue threatens democracy and called for tougher social network regulation.
The government said it plans to introduce a requirement for electoral adverts to have a “digital imprint”. This would mean that all political communications carried online would need to clearly identify who they were published by.
Labour said the government “needs to wake up to the new challenges we face and finally update electoral laws”.
The report follows the Cambridge Analytica data scandal earlier this year.
The London-based data analytics firms and tech giant Facebook were at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data – and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.
Both firms deny any wrongdoing.
Arron Banks, the businessman who was the chief backer of the unofficial Leave.EU campaign, donating millions of pounds, was criticised for misleading the committee about his business dealings with Russia and for failing to demonstrate the source of the money.
MPs also considered evidence from around the world of how elections could be manipulated and heard how Russian agencies worked to influence votes by running adverts on Facebook.
Mr Collins told the BBC this had happened without the knowledge of the social network.
“That’s why we feel that this is now a threat to our democracy,” he said.
“If these tools that are so powerful, that can reach millions and millions of people all around the world at the touch of a button, if they can be effectively used to spread disinformation without the source of that information ever being revealed, as appears to be the case here, then that is a threat we have to confront.”
He made clear the term “fake news” as used by figures like US President Donald Trump is different to the “concerted campaigns of disinformation” in which people or agencies deliberately spread false stories.