“FAKE NEWS”: RESPONDING TO DISINFORMATION IN WESTERN POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS
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“FAKE NEWS”: RESPONDING TO DISINFORMATION IN WESTERN POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS
30th November 2017 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
In partnership with The Wilfried Martens Centre, The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to a panel discussion on fake news.
Fake news and disinformation have topped the agendas of Western policymakers in the last year, especially as a result of the 2016 presidential election in the United States. During that campaign, the Russian government used thousands of fake social media accounts on Twitter, as well as adverts on Facebook, to spread information that furthered its agenda. The Russian government is also believed to have leveraged its so-called “troll army”— individuals paid by the Kremlin to produce and promote fake social media content — to impact messaging around the Brexit referendum. In both campaigns, the intention was intended to affect voting behaviour.
Businesses, governments, and international organisations are increasingly waking up to the importance of tackling fake news and disinformation. However, this is not a simple or straightforward task. Facebook, for example, has begun to use outside fact-checkers to fight against fake news. Yet, a recent study by Yale University found that fact-checking and tagging inaccurate news stories on social media has not been effective. While politicians discuss the problems of fake news and disinformation with increasing regularity, they have found it difficult to come to an agreement on how to tackle the phenomenon.
Given the persistence of the problem, Western policymakers need to provide satisfactory answers to key questions, namely ‘How to identify fake news and disinformation?’, ‘How to counter them in the open Western media space?’, ‘How to respond to a fake news and disinformation campaign that is organised and directed by a hostile foreign power?’, and ‘Can a fake news and disinformation campaign by a foreign power be considered as an act of aggression?’.
Edward Lucas is a senior editor at The Economist. He has served as a foreign correspondent in Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Moscow and the Baltic States. In addition to authoring The New Cold War, an assessment of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Mr Lucas is also the author of Deception, which examines east-west espionage operations.
Jakub Janda is the Deputy Director of the Prague-based European Values think tank, where he heads the Kremlin Watch Programme. He specialises in the steps democratic states take in response to hostile disinformation and influence operations.
James Carson is the head of Social Media at Telegraph Media Group, where he is also responsible for Search Engine Optimisation. He previously worked as a consultant specialising in digital marketing. Mr Carson has written and lectured extensively on the growing prominence of ‘fake news’.
Roland Freudenstein is Policy Director at the Wilfred Martens Centre, where he specialises in European integration and international security. He has previously worked for the European Commission, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
The Wilfried Martens Centre’s participation in this event has been made possible by financial support from the European Parliament. Sole liability rests with the organiser; the European Parliament is not responsible for the activity.
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.
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