December 13, 2017
The new Commissioner for Digital and Media, Mariya Gabriel, is taking initiatives regarding fake news, with a fast process leading to recommendations before 2018 Summer. And hopefully, impact before the 2019 EU elections. In the same spirit, I share the five-point hypothesis below, and welcome feedback, chiefly offline. I do spare readers of this brief post from an analysis of the issues which are widely shared: after two years of talks, the focus now should be about solutions.
The following thoughts were summarised during my interventions at the #TackleFakeNews conference on November 13-14, and explained during my presentation at the subsequent Ethical Forum (organised on fake news by multiple Belgian universities). Further talks with several officials, politicians and technology experts have convinced me that they are worth exploring. This builds on the practical ideas listed in the call for consultation and the call for the expert group, and could be discussed with others.
a) Premise: EU co-regulation (self-regulation essential for media, but not sufficient for platforms, prescriptive ex-ante regulation too slow, need a frame for own initiatives and negotiations). ‘Carrots and soft sticks’ for platforms to act quickly beyond self-interest, recovering trust in public debate. The EU level is relevant: neither global level without a common “demos”, nor national level with other issues and no critical mass.
b) Independent measurement of fake news proportion and progress (neither States nor platforms only): standard setting required for objective co-regulation.
c) Bundling fact-checkers’ inputs: leverage media and NGO initiatives currently fragmented (short term fixes + trainings & projects + R&D for more). Focused fact-checking, but also normal media curation role via links, quotes etc. Also contributing to journalism sustainability.
d) Foster several ‘credibility indexes’: basis for flagging, consumer choices, journalists’ decisions. While avoiding a ‘monopoly of truth’, potentially abused in some countries.
e) Platform algorithms to reflect a credibility index: except proven illegal outliers, no censorship of fake news but flagged and/or nearly hidden (softer than ‘right to be forgotten’, which was deemed impossible before being passed).
or see my direct coordinates, thanks.
Note: I also have views about a European strategy for the media sector. Which are compatible by the hypothesis above, but not dependent on it.