Democracy in danger from fake ‘news’

DID you hear the story alleging that Barack Obama was an undercover Hamas agent whose mission when elected president of the United States was to create a socialist national health system — Obamacare — the aim of which was to kill David Bowie because he knew the truth about a plan by Chinese-backed space aliens to hijack the oil industry and destroy the global economy? F

Democracy in danger from fake ‘news’

DID you hear the story alleging that Barack Obama was an undercover Hamas agent whose mission when elected president of the United States was to create a socialist national health system — Obamacare — the aim of which was to kill David Bowie because he knew the truth about a plan by Chinese-backed space aliens to hijack the oil industry and destroy the global economy? Fear not; it’s parody of a fake news item, written to make the point that while some voters might be dim enough to believe it, most possess sufficient common sense to see it for what it is: codswallop.

Which is not to say that fake news is not a problem. It is, and has been for centuries, as demonstrated by the antiquity and tenacity of the Jewish blood libels. What is different now — and what has provoked president Macron into drafting legislation that would in France outlaw fake news — is the volume of the rubbish being churned out on social media channels and the cyber fog in which its producers hide.

Mr Macron is right to be worried, but the action he proposes is too little, far too late. His ban would apply only during election campaigns, as if opinions aren’t shaped in the years between elections; it would see congested courts having to decide what was true or fake, or just something with which a politician disagreed; and it wouldn’t protect France’s democracy from websites and sources beyond its borders. It is, sadly, probable that this genie is out of the bottle.

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