Social Media Strategy & Management

Will European anti fake news measures prove effective?

The European Union sharply criticized the practice of disseminating fake news guilty of manipulating the public opinion, therefore posing a real threat to the stability and cohesion of societies. Hence the much longed for “anti-fake news” measures that present, in particular, indications and restrictions for the various social networks in addition to aids for traditional media to sustain quality information.

Furthermore, the launch of the first European news certification platform has been announced, that will have to notify the trustworthiness of information and implement a “best practices code” to be drafted by summer 2018. At the moment adoption of this code is still on a voluntary basis and it has no binding legal effect. In upcoming months, the Eu Commission will evaluate its applicability and possible benefits to make it effectively become new legislation.

As of today, included in the suggested measures are the possibility for users to easily verify sources and contents and to report potentially fake news, reduced political marketing targeting options, transparency of sponsored political contents, increased effort of online platforms to close fake profiles, and stopping trolls and bots from spreading fake contents.
As a result of these indications and the breaches of recent months to “digital privacy” and how information is delivered, there are still some open questions:

Like all third parties, it will be necessary to understand who will judge how this new European platform operates in relation to news certification. History, (not just in politics or the digital world), is full of certifiers that certify themselves. Fact Checking systems have been available for quite some time, to verify news’ trustworthiness, but are not much used even by people. In a sector in which a few big international players govern all supply chain stages, how can these companies be stopped from influencing the control phase?
These operations seem to focus only on “treating” a condition, acting primarily on the distribution phase with “posthumous” and direct platform checks. No preventive actions directly targeting the source, the creation of fake news are indicated. Technological evolution will further complicate the scenario since it’s already possible to make “fake videos”, that means face-swapped videos that cannot be detected by the naked eye. How can the advance of the new “fake media” be stopped?
finally, the use of fake news is just one side of the story, a much more complex story that was revealed by the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica episode. On the other hand, just as important, is the possibility of targeting people with specific (fake or not fake) information, and therefore collecting and using online information on them for improved profiling. The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), effective by the end of May, will increase the complexity and strictness of collection, management and use of this information, but could also reduce the possibilities for the digital Media market that has transformed profiling and customization into a competitive advantage for both investors and users. Will these measures be able to protect users’ privacy and their right to information without, at the same time, blocking a market that – through intelligent use of consumer related information – can provide benefits to companies as well as users?

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