Campaign to filter out ‘fake news’arrives late in the game

With Canadians set to go to the polls in two weeks, it’s late in the game to highlight the need for factual information.

News Media Canada decided to do its part by launching a new media literacy tool to help Canadians identify “fake news” on-line.

News Media Canada president John Hinds told The Reporter the “SPOT Fake News On-line” campaign has a specific target because it’s difficult to see where such information is coming from, who’s producing it, as well as the country of origin, when disseminated on-line.

The campaign is designed to prompt Canadians to ask themselves four simple questions when consuming on-line news and information: is this a credible source – check the source of the article and be skeptical; is the perspective biased – think critically and look for varying viewpoints on an issue; are other sources reporting the same story – be a fact-checker and verify the validity of the story; and finally is the story timely – check the date the story was published as sometimes, stories use old information to take advantage of a timely occurrence.

Hinds said News Media Canada – which is the voice of the print and digital news media industry in Canada – worked on this program with the Government of Canada.

According to an Ipsos-Reid study, 63 per cent of Canadians have trouble distinguishing between legitimate Web sites and fake news stories. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority found that 70 per cent of Canadians are concerned that fake news could impact the election outcome, which News Media Canada said is not surprising, since studies have shown that anywhere from 60 and 90 per cent of Canadians have – at one point or another – believed a fake news story they read on-line.

While he is unsure how fake news will impact the federal election, Hinds said there are examples from the Brexit vote in Great Britain and the 2016 presidential election in the United States that it can have an impact.

Hinds said there are “a lot of shady operators out there playing fast and loose with the facts” and political parties are “meeting with the security people weekly” to discuss fake news.

Since he believes the federal government has done as much as they can to combat faulty information, Hinds said it’s now up to traditional media to drive the point home, reasoning that “the best antidote to fake news is real news,” and do that, journalists are going to produce credible, fact-based news.

SPOT Fake News Online is a multi-faced and bilingual campaign that will be communicated to Canadians through an educational video, a new program microsite: www.spotfakenews.ca, and a comprehensive national advertising campaign in News Media Canada members’ print newspapers and news sites. The campaign will conclude in March and for more information, visit the News Media Canada Web site at: www.newsmediacanada.ca or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

This is a great idea, and a practical tool to help voters but why is this is coming out just before Canadians vote, and after some have already voted? By all accounts, many Canadians have already consumed reams of fake news and far too many have formed deeply-held opinions based on false information. This campaign would have had more value six months or a year ago, to get in front of what is a global problem.

And concluding five months after Canadians go to the polls, the campaign has the rare distinction of being late for this election and too early for the next vote.

Looking at the “No” campaign in Brexit, as well as foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, among many others, it has been demonstrated that fake news can affect important decisions, so why did the Canadian government wait so long into its term before tackling this problem? Consulting security experts regularly is merely monitoring the problem, this required immediate, aggressive action.

Hopefully, most Canadians are still able to make sound decisions, using verifiable information, so that the upcoming election results reflect what voters want, not what nefarious on-line sources are trying to sell.