“We are living in an era of fake news” said a Downing Street spokesman as the UK Government unveiled the new national security communications unit to tackle disinformation.
President Trump announced the Fake News Awards on Twitter, the Pope just denounced “snake tactics” from those who spread fake news, and social media platforms are being threatened with sanctions if they don’t hand over information about misinformation campaigns.
This isn’t an episode of Black Mirror set in a disturbing dystopian future-universe. This is real life in 2018.
During times like this the public needs reliable sources of news more than ever. Major, trusted news outlets remain our bastions of the truth as organisations like the BBC, Press Association and Reuters pour resources into fact-checking and strive to present a balanced, unbiased story.
It will be interesting to see how they fare as Facebook begins piloting new algorithms to prioritise content from publications that people rate as trustworthy. The most trusted sources will rank higher in news feeds to help the truth rise to the top. While there are only tests in the US now, Facebook plans to roll it out internationally in the future.
In Norway, four of the country’s most influential media organisations have already formed a ‘fact-checking collaboration’ called Faktisk. It will manually fact-check Norway’s media and social media, public debates and politicians’ comments before ranking them with a truthfulness rating from one to five. The software is open source, so other media companies can use it too.
Fake news is no longer a joke. Around the world publishers, governments and social media platforms are under increased public scrutiny to address the issue. The race is on to find the best way to spot and flag fake news.
Will the UK Government be the first to crack the code? Only time will tell.