Federal government can't do much to fight fake news: Heritage Canada documents - InfoNews

Current Conditions

Mostly Cloudy
-0.4°C

Federal government can't do much to fight fake news: Heritage Canada documents

Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly speaks to reporters after leaving a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 6, 2018. The federal government doesn't believe it can do much on its own to stem the growing tide of fake news in Canada, according to a briefing package prepared for Canadian heritage minister Melanie Joly in November. The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press through an Access to Information request, highlight that even though the government recognizes that fake news could threaten Canada's democratic institutions at a time when traditional news media is facing cutbacks and financial challenges, there's not much they can do to stop it.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
February 22, 2018 - 6:00 AM

OTTAWA - The federal government doesn't believe it can do much on its own to stem the growing tide of fake news in Canada, according to briefing notes prepared for Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.

The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press through an access-to-information request, highlight that even though the government recognizes that fake news could threaten Canada's democratic institutions at a time when traditional news outlets are facing cutbacks and financial challenges, there's not much they can do to stop it.

The government's inability to decide for Canadians what should and shouldn't be considered fake news is one reason it can't take direct action, according to the briefing notes, prepared in November by deputy Heritage minister Graham Flack.

Even if the government did attempt to publicly identify fake news stories, Flack said it could backfire, making readers more convinced the stories are true and increasing the likelihood they'd share the stories.

Overall, the briefing notes concluded that the role of combating misinformation should not rest on the government's shoulders alone and that "there is not likely one single, easy solution".

A trade association representing almost 1,000 digital and print media outlets across the country thinks otherwise.

John Hinds, the CEO of News Media Canada, said that there is a clear solution to the fake news problem.

"The antidote to fake news is real news," said Hinds.

"It's not about reinventing the wheel, it's about supporting the existing infrastructure that can provide Canadians with credible news."

That support may already be on its way. In January, Joly signalled at a meeting with members of a Quebec culture and communications union that the struggling news media industry is set to receive financial help from Ottawa in next week's federal budget.

However, the documents released to The Canadian Press separated the issue of a struggling news media industry as "distinct" from the issues surrounding the rise of fake news.

Instead, the documents point to partnerships between social media networks and media literacy organizations as part of the solution to the misinformation problem, rather than government intervention.

One such initiative — a partnership between social media giant Facebook, which has been widely criticized for not combating deliberate misinformation campaigns, and Canadian not-for-profit media literacy group MediaSmarts — is meant to combat fake news that could influence the next federal election.

MediaSmarts education director Matthew Johnson said that, with funding from Facebook, they are creating a guide for MPs, candidates and parties on identifying online misinformation as well as public service announcement videos and short games for Canadian social media users.

"In the last few years, misinformation in news and misinformation online have become an issue that people are more conscious of," said Johnson. "It's a drum that's been beating for quite some time now."

In an emailed statement, Joly's office asserted its commitment to working with social media companies and other online platforms to combat fake news but would not comment on the funding for the newspaper industry expected in Tuesday's budget.

"Disinformation and misinformation are a real issue that we need to be alive and alert to," read the statement.

"This is a conversation that we need to have with Canadians, including with companies which provide platforms for this information to be disseminated."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

  • Popular kamloops News
  • Comments
  • How this Kamloops couple is going zero waste
    KAMLOOPS - The first thing you notice when you walk into Haley Feller and Sam Birmingham's home is that it is so clean. Though their basement suite has no natural light the absence of cl
  • South Okanagan man gets letter from prisoner who shot him and left him for dead
    PENTICTON - When Ronald Teneycke one of the South Okanagan's most notorius prolific offenders, was declared a dangerous offender after months of court proceedings last March,Teneycke's las
  • Kamloops police seeking child and guardian
    KAMLOOPS - A boy and his aunt have not checked in for two days, and now RCMP are requesting the aunt make contact. Kamloops RCMP received a report to check the well being of a six-year-old b
  • Blood moon eclipse visible from southern Interior this weekend
    Residents of the southern B.C. Interior will have a prime seat for the total lunar eclipse this weekend if the weather cooperates. Overnight Sunday, Jan. 20, the full moon will become fully
  • TRENDING NOW: Leaf blower-powered sled
    %%nodefaultimage%% This Russian dad has raised the bar for improvised winter sliding devices. He blew away the competition by strapping a couple leaf blowers to his daughter's sled
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile