Saturday 20 January 2018

Fake news 'a threat to freedom of media'

Facebook: under scrutiny. Stock photo
Facebook: under scrutiny. Stock photo
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Fake news and light touch regulation of social media platforms are threats to democracy and press freedom in Ireland, the chair of the Press Council Sean Donlon has warned.

It comes as the Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney cautioned new media organisations that their credibility was being questioned because of the sharing of fake news online.

He said Facebook was aware of such threats to its credibility and warned the public would return to traditional news outlets in search of accurate and trusted information if online content was found to be untrustworthy.

"There are far more checks and balances, where traditional values of good journalism, accuracy, impartiality, depth and context are more likely to be found," said Mr Feeney.

"If the public requires access to accurate information and informed analysis, then there may well be a return to print and broadcasting.

"The Facebook organisation itself is fully aware that its own credibility is at risk from its posting of inaccuracies."

He said the sharing of fake news was a worrying threat because of its potential impact on future journalism funding models. "It's a threat because more and more of advertising revenue is shifting from print (and indeed broadcasting) to the Googles, Twitters and Facebooks of this world. This has undermined the business model of print and broadcast journalism and has called into question how quality journalism can be funded in the future."

Mr Donlon echoed Mr Feeney's comments as he questioned the fact companies such as Facebook and Google were "hoovering up" advertising and revenue.

He said "press freedom is an essential element of democracy" but welcomed a review of the Defamation Act.

Speaking at the launch of the Press Council of Ireland annual report, Mr Donlon said he hoped the review of the Act "would result in the possibility of lesser financial court settlements" faced by the media, and "more frequent use by complainants of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council".

Sunday Independent

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