Over the last decade, the erosion of trust in public institutions and traditional media have been proceeding in parallel. As recent developments in media consumption have led to a proliferation of politically charged online misinformation. From the 2016 US presidential elections through the 2018 Italian parliamentary elections up to the Coronavirus health crisis. It is no surprise that the spread of fake news has been held responsible for affecting political outcomes. The question then arises as to does exposure to fake news actually affects voting behavior?

According to a study by the European Parliament, published last April, misinformation has far-reaching implications for human rights and democratic norms worldwide. It threatens freedom of thought, the right to privacy and the right to democratic participation, as well as endangering a range of economic, social and cultural rights.

It also diminishes broader indicators of democratic quality, unsettling citizens’ faith in democratic institutions not only by distorting free and fair elections, but also fomenting digital violence and repression. At the same time, as governments and corporations begin to confront this issue more seriously, it is apparent that many of their counter disinformation initiatives also sit uneasily with human rights and democratic standards.

Disinformation undermines human rights and many elements of good democratic practice; but counter-disinformation measures can also have a prejudicial impact on human rights and democracy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified these trends and problems. It has unleashed new, more intense and increasingly varied disinformation campaigns around the world, whiche have succeded in some cases to negatively impact the response to the vaccination campaigns and the implementation of anti-covid-19 measures.

The challenge posed by disinformation comes not only from its content, but also how it is distributed and promoted on social media. The intention to harm or profit that characterises disinformation itself entails that disinformation is commonly accompanied by strategies and techniques to maximise its influence. Anyone with a social media account can create and spread disinformation: governments, companies, other interest groups, or individuals.

The most systemic threats to political processes and human rights arise from organised attempts to run coordinated campaigns across multiple social media platforms. As indicated by Facebook’s exposure of coordinated inauthentic behaviour, large disinformation campaigns are often linked with governments, political parties and the military, and/or with consultancy firms working for those bodies.

Disinformation campaigns are becoming increasingly sophisticated and micro-targeted, through marketing strategies that use people’s data to segment them into small groups, thus providing apparently tailored content. The fact that content sharing has also moved from open to encrypted platforms(WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat are in the top five social media platforms globally) makes it more difficult to track disinformation.

5 TIPS TO STAVE OFF FAKE NEWS

  1. Consume a variety of well-respected news sources.
  2. If you must watch the news on television, try to avoid always watching the same channel. 
  3. Avoid getting your news exclusively from social media. 
  4. Practice consuming news dispassionately. Engage the news with a sense of curiosity and a desire to be informed, rather than an urge to be outraged or moved. 
  5. Read before you spread. Do not forward or retweet links to articles you have not read.

FAKES NEWS DEFINITION:

Fake news refers to news stories that do not use industry-accepted best-practices aimed at ensuring accuracy and credibility of information when producing news and editorial content. Fake news might refer to stories that are outright false or fabricated, but it can also include stories that present information in misleading ways. Sometimes these categories are referred to as misinformation. Check out our Guide for more details