Fake news and propaganda driven by government’s and corporations is of course, nothing new. Brexit and the American election have brought the subject into sharp focus more recently as the political class have been unexpectedly losing important desired outcomes.
Consequently, as TruePublica reported a week ago, in Britain, controversial laws have been introduced to stem free speech, which, over the passage of time will be used to halt any individual, website or news outlet from reporting against the government narrative with so-called fake news eventually being outlawed. Think this is conspiratorial theorising? Think again.
Last Friday, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorises $611 billion for military spending in 2017. Leaving aside the year-on-year increase and the huge sum overall, buried deeply inside its hefty documentation the NDAA authorises the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016”.
Senator Rob Portman justified the act with – “there is currently no single U.S. governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.”
After Trump’s election, favoured arch-enemy Russia is in the crosshairs in the international propaganda war whilst the Act effectively brings with it the creation of a post cold-war Ministry of Information (or disinformation depending on your view) to combat it at home.
The U.S. senate has effectively brought into law, described by ZeroHedge as “a bill that further chips away at press liberties in the US, and which sets the stage for future witch hunts and website shutdowns, purely as a result of an accusation that any one media outlet or site is considered as a source of “disinformation and propaganda” and is then shut down by the government.”
Europe is about to follow suit.
EU Parliament President Martin Schulz and Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas both came out against so-called fake news last week. In completely separate press interviews, both politicians discussed plans to create laws banning platforms like Facebook from spreading what they consider to be fabricated stories presented as real news, something both men saw as harmful to democracy.
“We need a systematic legal framework,” Maas told the “Bild am Sonntag” newspaper. His ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) and coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) have already announced their intention to craft new legislation to stop the dissemination of fake news in late January 2017.
Schulz offered more concrete plans, saying that to combat the subversion of democracy that occurs when foreign interests create fake viral stories, “not only a national, but a European” solution was necessary.
Thomas Oppermann, who leads the SPD in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, decided on even more drastic action to combat fake news. Speaking with “Der Spiegel” magazine, Oppermann said that harsh punitive measures were necessary and suggested 500,000 euro fines be imposed on the portals of misinformation.
Whilst clearly referring to Facebook, the EU Commission is looking more widely. Facebook and Google have both stated that ‘fake news’ stories will be taken down by an army of ‘fact-checkers.’ “Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance” said Facebook last week, with Google echoing the same message.
“Berlin has concerns that similar foul play that saw Donald Trump elected could affect the German vote” says one news outlet in Germany. It is obvious that the political class continue to refuse the democratic will of the people and blame the Russian bogeyman and their messengers – not their own mis-handling of the great EU project.
Euronews recently ran a story stating that “experts say the phenomenon (of fake news) is a major problem in Europe, ahead of polls in France and Germany next year that could prove vital for the EU’s future. It comes after Italian fact-checking website Pagella Politica claimed half the stories shared on social media in the run-up to the country’s recent constitutional referendum – the result of which prompted the resignation of prime minister Matteo Renzi – were fake.” Again, the desired outcomes of the political class being out-gunned by common people being left behind by globalisation is not the real reason – fake news is.
The International Business Times went with the story “How US and EU failings allowed Kremlin propaganda and fake news to spread through the West.”
IBT went into hysteria mode and hypothesised that Russia was guilty of “engaging in a new type of warfare against the West, using information, cyber attacks, and propaganda to exploit weaknesses in western societies and undermine faith in their leaders and institutions.” All of the links to this story except one were to its own articles.
The one exception ended up apologising for its use of information obtained by so-called experts who refused to be named.
The political elite want to crack down on what they view is fake news — which essentially amounts to pretty much anything that they disagree with or what doesn’t fit with their own world view and the outcomes desired.
Gatekeepers in the form of fact-checkers will be deciding what’s false and what’s true, with little or no vetting.
Long, hard, fought-for civil liberties and rights, along with free expression will be handed to organisations, approved by government who are convinced we shouldn’t have those rights in the first place.
By Graham Vanbergen