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Report: ‘Fake News’ Requires Differential Treatment

Project Updates


17 Oct 2018

Participants of the 9th ASEF Editors’ Roundtable (ASEFERT9), held in Brussels, Belgium on 15-16 October 2018, agreed that the threat of ‘fake news’ is best handled according to sociocultural contexts, among other considerations. This was the main finding of the roundtable, which consisted of various stakeholders, each with a vested interest on the topic.

Among the participants were: news editors and senior journalists from 17 countries in Asia & Europe; 5 policy makers from national and regional governments; 2 representatives form civil society organisations; and representatives from Google and Mozilla, representing the private sector.

In his opening address, ASEF’s Executive Director Ambassador Karsten WARNECKE affirmed the desire to collaborate across sectors, saying, “This multi-stakeholder approach reflects our belief in the power of collaboration in addressing global issues.”

Coming at a time of significant governmental elections in Asia and Europe, the event naturally took on a slight political spin, with each participant offering their perspective on the causes and consequences of ‘fake news’. Among the issues brought up was the use of ‘fake news’ legislation in political prosecution and a decline in trust in the media.

Indeed, the presence of the various stakeholder groups resulted in a diversity of opinions. ‘Fake news’ was at once considered from the social, political and technological viewpoints, while a multitude of solutions were offered: from fact-checking initiatives to ‘fake news’ legislation and the use of AI.

Among the valuable contributions provided were those from veterans of the media industry: Mr Eric WISHART, former Editor-in-Chief at AFP, and Mr Jochen SPANGENBERG, Innovation Manager at Deutsche Welle.

Policy makers including Mr Charles CHONG, Chair of Singapore’s Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, and Ms Claire BURY, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission’s DG CONNECT, shared examples of their respective undertakings.

Civil society too, had its say, through the example of the Lie Detectors initiative. Founded by Ms Juliane VON REPPERT-BISMARCK, Lie Detectors conducts classroom sessions, using accessible and non-political and material to introduce media literacy and source verification to schoolchildren. The initiative employs working journalists and leverages children’s intuitive understanding of clickbait material to stimulate critical thinking.

With the myriad perspectives presented, arriving at a common conclusion was deemed unfeasible. However, it was agreed that exposure to those very perspectives was in itself highly beneficial in gaining a nuanced understanding of the topic.

It was thus highlighted that the topic of fake news needs to be understood through different societal and contextual lenses, and that specialised solutions need to be found for each situation.

Organised as an official side event of the 12th ASEM Summit (ASEM12), the 9th ASEF Editors’ Roundtable (ASEFERT9) is the 2018 edition of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)‘s long-running series bringing together editors and senior journalists from the 51 Partner countries of the ASEM Process. The series creates exchange and networking opportunities while focusing on current issues in Asia-Europe relations.

The event will see continuity in the form of the 12th ASEF Journalists’ Seminar (ASEFJS12), a gathering of young journalists around the topic of ‘Media Trust & Misinformation in the Digital Age’. ASEFJS12 will take place on 13-14 December 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

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