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Event Summaries
December 4, 2017

Event Summary: “Fake News”: Responding to disinformation in Western political campaigns

Henry Jackson Society

By Jamila Mammadova

On the 30th of November 2017, the Henry Jackson Society was delighted to welcome Senior Editor at the Economist Edward Lucas, Deputy Director of the Prague-based European Values think tank Jakub Janda, Head of Social Media at Telegraph Media Group James Carson and Policy Director at the Wilfred Martens Centre Roland Freudenstein. The gentlemen spoke about “Fake News” and responding to disinformation in Western political campaigns. The event was chaired by HJS Research Director Timothy Stafford who made opening remarks and welcomed all the guests and speakers.

Then, the floor was taken by Roland Freudenstein who thanked HJS for cooperation in organising the event and touched on the cyber security situation in the European Union. As somebody who specialises in European integration and international security, Mr. Freudenstein stressed the convergence of interests between the EU and the UK in the cyber security area. His comments were followed by James Carson’s presentation on how the “Fake News” are being spread on social media and internet and the degree of trust that the British population has in it. He touched on the role of the War on Terror, smart phones and social media and how these effectively undermined the trust of the population in the establishment. He argued that the lack of mechanism for internet regulation makes it easy and cheap to spread information online.

Edward Lucas, continued, suggesting that the term “Fake News” was misleading, because it is not a new phenomenon. Journalism in Britain started as politically driven information that subsequently transformed itself into reputable newspapers. It is much more important to focus on Russia’s military tactics, its violation of law, dirty money, and other subversive tools at its disposal, such as information wars. However, Mr. Lucas agreed that technology significantly changed the process of news gathering. Anonymity is something that is difficult to tackle in the new age of Facebook and Word Press. One of the ways of identifying “Fake News” is to look for contact information of the authors and whether the website was properly registered and had an editor-in-chief. He also suggested that the quality of journalism should be defined by the use of practice of apology on behalf of a newspaper. It could also help if social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter could warn users if the information was real.

Jakub Janda continued the discussion, saying that the Central European states did not pay enough attention to Russia when the crisis in Ukraine took place because it was happening far away. As a result, 28% of Chekhs, for example, believe in disinformation, with 30% actually thinking that Ukraine was a fascist state. Mr. Janda explained that Russia was trying to influence opinions of Western public and electorate. As a result, the European public is divided, which affects the prospects for EU membership. That, in turn, affects policy-making in Europe.

The event continued with Q and A session, where the audience asked about the ways in which “Fake News” can be tackled and what that would hold for Western security and freedom of press.