Government & Law

Freedom of Speech and Fake News

June 18, 2018

When election time approaches, how do you get the information you need to make a choice at the polls?  Likely it is the same sources that you rely on day-to-day.  And what sources are these?  Print – newspapers and magazines – probably not likely.  TV news broadcasts – maybe.  Most likely you have online sources that you routinely go to, sort of personal trusted sources.  Included in these is likely forwarded news articles from friends – friends who like share the same political views and biases as you.  Given the digital world we live in there is high probability that we could suffer an overload of information and little time to consider the veracity of the information.

We all enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed freedom speech.  This freedom along with the ease with which information can be posted on various internet sites, from social media to blogs.  These postings can either deliberately or unknowingly (due to lack of information), become “Fake News”.  Once online they can have a life of their own being posted, reposted, shared, etc.  It is not possible to prevent people from expressing themselves short of slander.

So we are faced with a dilemma of sorts, free speech and resultant fake news vs. the need for accurate information to support a vibrant electoral process.  What might we do?  First, we urgently need a public debate, however difficult this might be in our very polarized environment.  Second, we should establish certified “Trusted Sources” for all relevant information pertaining to an election.  Who ‘certifies’ will have to be worked out, as well as what topics are posted.  This may require public funding.  A Wikipedia-like model may be a possibility.  Let’s debate the idea.  Third, online news sites must require attribution for election related topics, much like political ads are required to reveal the sponsor.  This is a start.  Any thoughts?

Photo by mikemacmarketing

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