Leave it to the EU to make up a day celebrating some cause to then get its knickers in a twist because of some great threat to the cause it has just made up. Case in point: World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.
Of course, it would be wrong to ‘celebrate’ this day because “journalists continue to be repressed and persecuted all over the world,” but more importantly, the EU can come up with plans to make this repression and persecution even worse. In the words of European Parliament President Antonio Tajani:
“When we consider press freedom, we also have to look at the internet. It is a source of knowledge as much as it is a source of concern. Almost half of all Europeans get their news from social media. This has made spreading fake news far too easy. There are mounting concerns over disinformation and hate speech, used to promote radicalisation and fundamentalism, particularly among young people.”
Disregard, for a moment, that the internet is a source of information, at best, not knowledge. Concentrate on the fact that some factions within the European Parliament, using the president’s words as their cue, utilise World Press Freedom Day as an excuse to call for government control over the press:
“The S&D Group is committed to bew at the forefront of this important fight. We believe it is crucial to counteract the trend of fake news by striving for better quality, more transparent journalism and using EU funds to establish specific educational programs in order to improve media literacy amongst our youth. We are also calling on the Commission to explore the available legal options to challenge illegal content online. Finally, we must encourage social media channels themselves to take measures to eliminate fake news and hate speech which appear (sic) on their websites.”
Mind blown. Or, rather, an attempt at mind control.
Because, as always, what the EU considers to be ‘Fake News’ depends highly on context. If it suits them, it’s not, if it doesn’t, it is.
The European Parliament offers a handy information sheet, with a definition of what fake news is supposed to be, and five easy steps to spot it. Not possible fake news, no, definite fake news.
Steps one to three seem to make sense. Step four is not so much about recognising, but about not disseminating fake news – even as it reinforces a problem inherent in steps one to three. Step five, though, is the clincher. This is not about recognising fake news. This is about the EU trying to control what is regarded as fake news.
All steps have the same problem. Instead of explaining what fake news might look like, as CNN does in a far better article, the EU aims at propping up its institutions.
There is less of an educational, and more of a controlling slant. Which is doubly ironic, because all of the ‘myth busters’ mentioned as sources of ‘exposed fake news’ are either extremely biased (StopFake.org and DFRLab both have vested interests in ‘exposing’ Russian fake news and can therefore hardly be considered objective news sources) or, as is the case with EUvsDisinfo, are EU sponsored.
Indeed, the EUvsDisinfo actually is the EU’s own propaganda channel aimed at Russia.
Now the EU might claim that this is somehow different. Really though, presenting your own propaganda channel as an objective judge when it comes to sniffing out fake news is… rather fake.