JULIE ELLIOTT: The fear of fake news impacting on political process

Social media phone apps.
Social media phone apps.
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Fake news has become THE news in recent months – prompting heated media debates world-wide, as well as within our own parliament.

The fake news stories that are based on the misinterpretation of facts, or even outright false information, are not actually new.

Indeed, the issue has been causing concern since before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press back in 1439.

There is no doubt, however, that the internet is at the root of the current crisis; false stories, or those with questionable origins, spread quickly, and widely, through social media.

It is vital that people can trust the news they access. Fake news undermines confidence in the media in general and has tangible effects on our understanding of the world.

With suggestions that untrue news stories were spread widely prior to the recent United States presidential election, there’s a real fear that fake news can have a significant impact on the political process.

As a member of parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, I’m really keen to play an active role in the group’s upcoming inquiry to tackle what has now become a major problem worldwide.

Until the start of next month, organisations will be able to come forward with evidence of fake news stories and their impact.

While a free press is an essential element of democracy, I will look in detail at this evidence and work to ensure that we have access to accurate information in the press. It’s only right that people have the tools they need to assess the origin of news stories they read online.

It’s also really important that we examine the potential responsibilities of search engines and social media platforms.

I want to look into the possibility of rooting out untrue stories from search engine results to prevent them being spread rapidly on social media.

I can assure people in Sunderland that I will be working hard over the next few months to look at what can be done to curtail the spread of fake news and ensure that people have access to factual and trustworthy news.