Archive | Media

Fake news – are they for real?

There is a lot of buzz about »fake news«. But there is very little discussion about what it is that is supposed to be fake.

Maybe, there isn’t that much real fake news. (Dissent doesn’t qualify as fake.) Maybe it’s about stuff we don’t really want to know about. Or are not supposed to.

»Fake news« seems to be a mirage that will vanish if you try to pin it down.

It might also be that we are already so entangled in lies that we can no longer recognize the truth, even in its presence.



»Fake news« overhyped?

Our study of search and politics in seven nations – which surveyed the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain in January 2017 – found these concerns to be overstated, if not wrong. In fact, many internet users trust search to help them find the best information, check other sources and discover new information in ways that can burst filter bubbles and open echo chambers. (…)

We found that the fears surrounding search algorithms and social media are not irrelevant – there are problems for some users some of the time. However, they are exaggerated, creating unwarranted fears that could lead to inappropriate responses by users, regulators and policymakers.

The Conversation » Fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles: Underresearched and overhyped »


Is the idea of an EU »link tax« finally dead?

Just in, regarding the EU Copyright package:

It seems as if the rapporteur in the European Parliament has killed off the proposed EU »link tax« (art. 11) and the demand for ISP:s to filter and censor user generated content (art. 13).

Julia Reda: MEP: European Parliament poised to reject EU copyright expansion plans »


Link tax, fake news and alternative media

I don’t get it.

The proposed EU »link tax« (charging people and platforms who are linking to a news site) is a backward idea. It will lead to fewer readers and reduced revenues for Big Media, not more money.

Aside from that, Big Media and politicians are at war with what they call »fake news«. (As it turns out, it might be more of a war against new and alternative media – to stamp out competition.)

But assuming that fake news is a real problem – then it makes the link tax even more incomprehensible.

Alt-right media, troll sites, racist web publications, civil rights activists, oppositional web media, citizen journalists, bloggers, satirists… – all but Big Media will probably opt out from (or not be included in) the link tax, as they want people to visit their sites and publications.

To put it in the simplest possible terms: A link tax will steer the public away from mainstream media – and to the very same alternative media that is accused of providing fake news.

I don’t get the logic, if any.



The latest on EU »link tax«

On 24 February 2017 the Rapporteur of the European Parliament (EP) Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), Catherine Stihler MEP, published her draft Opinion on the Copyright Directive. The Opinion sends a strong message against the most extremist parts of the European Commission’s proposal: the “censorship machine” (aka upload filter) proposal in Article 13 and the suggestion to expand the “ancillary copyright ” (aka “link tax”), that failed so miserably in Germany and Spain to every country of the EU.

EDRi: A positive step forward against the “censorship machine” in the Copyright Directive »

Julia Reda, Pirate MEP: New copyright study shows fundamental flaws in EU Commission plans for upload surveillance »


You cannot and should not legislate against »fake news«

Bad journalism and propaganda have plagued publishing and governments for thousands of years. Donald Trump’s violently-adversarial relationship with facts and Vladimir Putin’s warehouses full of paid internet trolls have simply taken the conversation to an entirely new level in the internet age. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of the folks who believe they can somehow legislate this problem away may be doing more harm than good.

Techdirt: ‘Fake News’ Now Means Whatever People Want It To Mean, And Legislating It Away Is A Slippery Slope Toward Censorship »


Fake news and the war over information

Everybody seems to be obsessed with the phenomenon of »fake news«.

But this is nothing new. If you have first-hand information, you will find that mainstream media are often wrong.

When I used to work in the European Parliament for the Swedish Pirate Party, we established the principle »right enough«. If a piece of news only had minor errors, we let go and focused on something more important. To try to correct everything journalists get wrong will be much too time-consuming.

A standard phone call from a (non-Brussels based) journalist normally started out with everything between five and 30 minutes of EU for dummies – where we had to explain who does what and how things actually work in this multinational bureaucracy. And in the end, it would to some extent end up incorrect anyway. You can only do so much.

Journalists are not rocket scientists, their insights and knowledge are normally limited, and they have a tight time frame to collect and analyze the facts. They will always get some things wrong.

And, of course, journalists and media organizations are biased – often without being aware of this fact themselves.

However, the context at the moment is not about mainstream media. It’s about the competition.

The political and media elite seems to have a strong aversion towards alternative media. Often new players don’t follow the same set of unwritten rules as journalists who are a part of the establishment. And this might be a good thing, as the latter often are more interested in cultivating their relations with people in power than reporting the actual news.

Of course, alternative media is sometimes filled with fake news, satire, propaganda, opinions, biased reporting… and often with real, important news and a qualified analysis that doesn’t make it into traditional media.

During the years 2009-14 in the European Parliament, we often used our blogs and social media networks to get the news out: Important news and first-hand information, that was not in any way covered in other media.

This was often met with irritation from the political elite and the bureaucracy – and with a scornful attitude from Big Media. There are always people who, because of various reasons, find frank reports about real matters disturbing.

Somehow, I fear that an elite of politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and media organizations are taking advantage of the fact that there is a certain degree of fake news out there – to smear all new, alternative media.

They simply don’t want others to interfere.

Now we will see Facebook in cooperation with mainstream media start labeling links as »disputed«. Germany might go all Putin and fine those who publish »incorrect« information on the Internet. It is all quite Orwellian. And it opens up for abuse, censorship, and cover-ups.

The media – new or old – rarely gets everything right. Sometimes it gets most things wrong. Usually, it has some sort of agenda. Therefore, its’ analyses should always be questioned. To get a somewhat complete picture – we need to turn to more sources, many different media organizations, and an abundance of disparate voices – not fewer.

The entire discussion over »fake news« might just be tactics in the endless war of power over information, over the agenda. Obviously, the establishment is not amused with the new competition.



War on fake news and hate speech to open Pandora’s box?

What is truth?

Facebook will start to flag content as »disputed«. Obvious fake news will be flagged by Facebook itself. And disputed »real« news content will be subject to third-party fact-checking with e.g. Snopes,, ABC News, the AP, and Politifact.

Are they to draw a line between »fake« and »wrong«? While »fake« in many cases might be assessed on reasonably objective grounds, »right« or »wrong« can be a very complicated and delicate matter.

At the same time, there is a proposal in Germany to fine Facebook € 500,000 for each identified piece of fake news or hate speech that is not removed within 24 hours.

To its nature, »hate speech« is a definition that lies very much in the eye of the beholder. Even where there is a legal definition, things might prove problematic – as such laws often give different groups different sets of »rights« (like protection from verbal or written abuse). This being a deviation from the principle that all people should be equal before the law.

These are extremely complex issues. No doubt these rules will lead to disputes over freedom of speech. Here also lies inherent conflicts between mainstream media and alternative media, between the political elite and popular opposition, and between conflicting sets of values. This might prove to be a modern version of Pandora’s box.

And – in a wider perspective – the very notion that there will be some sort of »Ministry of Truth« is deeply disturbing.


• Wired: Facebook Finally Gets Real About Fighting Fake News »
• Deutsche Welle: 500,000 euro fines for fake news on Facebook in Germany? »
• Quartz: Germany threatens to fine Facebook €500,000 for each fake news post »


EU to tax links to news

Germany and Spain introduced in their legislation what some people call a “Google tax”. The idea came from the publishers. They claimed the right to get an additional copyright, “ancillary copyright”, on any news that are published online. The idea of this “tax” (that is actually not a tax) was to charge the online news sites who publish news snippets, short extracts of news, such as Google News. Even if the main target of publishers was Google News, the laws affect other similar services, for example meneame in Spain. Ultimately it could even undermine the whole concept of links to information.

The result of this “Google tax” was a complete failure: Google decided to close Google News in Spain, while in Germany everyone except Google ended up paying the “tax”. Now, even after these clear failures, the European Commission (EC) is determined to make this error a European one; it’s considering implementing the ancillary copyright everywhere in the European Union (EU) – and on an even bigger scale than in Spain and Germany.

EDRi: The “Google tax”- not a tax and Google doesn’t pay »