The News Media Association (NMA, the mouthpiece of national and local publishers) of UK has now urged the government to investigate the roles played by Facebook and Google in propagating fake news. In its recommendation to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport regarding fake news, NMA has asked for a stringent investigation to assess the role these two major players play in presenting fake news, alongside real authenticated news, and circulating them.
The submission acknowledges the problem that arises due to fake news. NMA described it as "fabricated stories that have no factual basis but are presented as news – is a growing cause for concern around the world, with implications for an informed electorate and democracy itself."
The report cited that most of this fake news sites are not run by proper journalists but people, who look more into the commercial and political end of things and exploit the search algorithms of Facebook, Google or any other networks to provide users with stories that may become "trending" or "viral" regardless of the fact that may in fact not be authentic at all.
This can become catastrophic as this news deeply affect the perception of the public about what truth actually is, states NMA. These fake news websites may form opinions that can lead to a chain of reactions via so-called "likes" and "shares", without a factual check for authenticity, giving a very deluded notion of the original proceedings or the events of the news.
NMA mentions that this tendency of Facebook and Google to let this news go unchecked has dire consequences, "Funding fake news causes real social harm by rewarding piracy and facilitating the spread of conspiracy theories. It may also be re-enforcing filter bubbles that warp people understand of the world and insulate them from opposing views. Another social harm caused is the diversion of funds from real news to fake news, weakening the former's voice, reducing its reach and undermining its vital role of anchoring public discourse in reality."
Although Facebook has often defended its stance on these matters by saying that it is not a traditional media company in the truest sense and Google has made only half-hearted attempts to tackle this problem, the NMA feels it is high time that there should be a sense of accountability in place.
Therefore, among several other recommendations, it has also recommended Culture, Media and Sport committee should "call for a regulatory review of the status of Google and Facebook and whether they should continue to be considered mere intermediaries. Such a review should look at what additional responsibilities they should bear, without creating any new regulatory burdens or wider liabilities for the traditional media or new restrictions on its publishing freedoms."