Journalists share ways to combat fake news. 

By Bastian Kaiser and Sira Thierji

 Pictures used in a wrong context, at a different place, manipulated and staged content – fake news can take several forms. Journalists have lost their gatekeeping power to other platforms, such as Google or Twitter. Today, more than 60 percent of Americans gather their news from Facebook – in the Philippines it’s even more: 97 percent of the people online use the network.

The  shift from traditional to social media has an impact on world policits: from Brexit and the Trump campaign to the Kenyan elections. Leaders use fake news and social media “to dictate and control the public narrative”, says Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor of the news network Rappler, at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference. “We have to clean the world up and define a new order”, she continues.

Along with Maria Ressa, Arta Giga, a leading TV producer for investigative journalism in Latvia, Lee Mugambi, deputy editor of Africa Check, Anya Schiffrin, Director of International Media at Columbia University, and Leon Willems, Director of Policies and Programmes at Free Press Unlimited, combined their knowledge and experience to put together a list of strategies to fight fake news:


  • Investigate and expose

Journalists need to uncover fake news and make them visible as such. They need to provide correct and balanced information to the public instead.


  • Investigate algorithms

Media outlets have a responsibility to expose the mechanisms of how social media platforms distribute information. Right now, algorithms filter information by general interest and ideology – further strengthening preconceived opinions of the users. Journalists need to find a way to reach even those who are part of a different “information bubble”.


  • Regulate and tax social media companies

At the moment, social media platforms have no incentive to intensively uncover and prosecute fake news. Therefore, governments need to implement policies that force these companies to put more effort into preventing the spread of false information. Fact checking by journalists is not enough – it’s too slow, time-consuming and never ending. Technical solutions are needed instead and social media outlets need to “spend as much time thinking this through as they do growing”, says Maria Ressa.


  • Comedy show about lies

 TV programs, social media campaigns and Stand-up Comedy can help to make the public aware of how lies are deliberately spread.


  • Research exchange networks

 Media outlets should work together with others who have the same interest in gaining a better understanding of how fake news work, such as universities, research centres, government bodies and other initiatives.


  • Public campaign to raise awareness

 Media organisations, public entities and non-profit initiatives need to attract attention to the fact that fake news and their systematic purpose exist. Users need to know that news on social media are not necessarily produced with journalistic standards – therefore, they need to think critically about what they read and see.


  • Turn social media houses into non profits

 Social media platforms should be considered as a public good that contributes to the well-being of the entire society.


  • Media literacy and education

 In the short run, social media organisations need to be regulated through government policies. The mid- and long-term strategy must be to teach basic fact checking skills to everyone.


PHOTO: Anya Schiffrin from Columbia University, USA, Maria Ressa from Rappler, Philippines, Arta Giga from TV Latvia and Lee Mugambi from Africa Check, South Africa discuss strategies to fight fake news.  Photo: KAS.