In your opinion, which criteria should be used to define fake news for the purposes of scoping the problem?
A simpler method would be to define non-fake news. Non-fake news is that which emanates from complete, open, sourced, audited information on a topic. By this definition, almost all news is fake news, but it doesn’t have to be. If we create platform-independent knowledge repositories which link, source and verify news from all sources by topic, any news which emanates from that source is not fake news. This will allow us to share news that may be as simplistic and incomplete as a meme, but still links to a complete, verifiable source. It also allows information from epistemic communities whose knowledge is at an elite level to be distilled down to any level of interest without losing truth, context or verifiability.
Please specify which categories of fake news are more likely to cause harm to society.
All categories of intentional disinformation are harmful. You could add corporate advertising and state propaganda but intentional disinformation should stand alone without qualifiers. Knowledge is necessary for democracy and must be recognized as a human right along with free speech and free press. An uninformed vote is a coerced vote. People who have lost trust or access to knowledge will blindly follow demagogues and ideology as we are increasingly seeing.
What are the main economic, social and technology-related factors which, in the current news media landscape, contribute to the increasing spread of fake news?
The design of the web is centred around personalities and organizations (instead of information) which makes it impossible to collaborate at the data level or have platform-independent information. This allows information to be owned by technology companies and locked away from information on other platforms. This contributes greatly to self-perpetuating thought bubbles of biased information which translates to increased bigotry and misunderstanding offline.
Additionally, platform dependency means there is no way to link all perspectives on a topic together or easily source where an information snippet originated. Information filtering is left up to easily manipulated corporate algorithms instead of human trust networks which allows bot farms to flood platforms and make real news impossible to find. Celebrity is amplified over expertise.
Why are measures taken by tech companies not so effective in combating fake news?
They are far more easily manipulated by tech savvy misinformation campaigns than by the casual users who are a target of misinformation and they just decrease the public trust in information which is already at a crisis level. People do not have time to verify all the news they read so they will stop believing anything, especially since ‘debunking’ claims are now a favourite way to spread misinformation.
What precautions should readers take when reading and sharing news online?
It is unrealistic to expect all readers to invest all of the time required to fact check all of the information they ingest every day. Expecting this of them will just further erode their trust in any information and their engagement on important topics.
A study to measure the level of factual news believed by users of each platform would be very helpful in identifying the thought bubbles created on each platform and how resilient each is against fact checking.
What should be done to reduce the spread of disinformation online?
The current lack of trust in information is the single biggest crisis facing democracies. A universal database commons is needed which can help to create a platform-independent, collaborative, knowledge repository as explained in the links at end and on http://www.getgee.xyz/
Which measures could online platforms take in order to improve users’ access to reliable information and prevent the spread of disinformation online?
It isn’t the job of online platforms. Corporate monopolies over information filtering is a very bad idea. We need independent collaborative knowledge repositories which are only possible with a platform-independent universal database.
We need a platform-independent universal database commons.
Also, if dedicated bot armies are detected, they should not be just deleted. Those streams should be archived and accessible to researchers who want to compare what ideas and stories are being pushed by what networks.
In your view, which measures could news media organizations take in order to improve the reach of reliable information and prevent the spread of disinformation online?
Participate in creating online collaborative knowledge repositories. Collaborate with other news organizations and other news sources. Encourage a more educated public with more in-depth articles.
New organizations are barely keeping their heads above water and must forego valuable investigative reporting for clickbait. A universal database would give them a new business model and more collaborative journalism, but governments need to recognize access to trustworthy information as an essential right under a democracy, as important as the right to vote, and support access to reliable information. This is not something news organizations can or will do on their own.
In your view, which measures could civil society organizations take in order to support reliable information and prevent the spread of disinformation online?
Again, this is not their job. Access to reliable information is a fundamental core of democracy and it is government’s job to ensure that the public can create information that is open, permeable, audited by the public and not controlled by corporate platforms. EU governments should support the infrastructure to create a universal database. Civil society organizations would then have a reasonable place to create verified, open knowledge which they do not have presently.
What actions, if any, should be taken by public authorities to counter the spread of fake news, and at what level (global, EU, national/regional) should such actions be taken?
We need a universal database commons which will allow us platform independent collaboration on information. Democratic public authorities should support this platform independent access to information as they support access to the internet, as a universal human right.
Well, I tried. Final report. Corporations and states manipulate social media to spread disinformation and escalate division and use that as a reason that corporations and states need more control over online dialogue.