Fake news in the post-truth era

Did Mark Zuckerberg announce his resignation from Facebook? Was a restaurant in Texas shut down for serving human meat? Does Iceland pay $5,000 per month to immigrants who marry Icelandic women?

Commonly known as “fake news” or “hoaxes”, the majority of them are obviously no-sense. Usually based on conspiracy theories, they tend to have even mythical and religious content. Despite the laughter they may provoke, some of them can distort the truth, especially when they are interfering into politics.

Last year, three months before the British referendum, the Sun in its front page published the title: “Queen backs Brexit”. It was a fake news, refuted by Buckingham Palace, but did everyone know about it?

In July 2016, the satire web site WTOE 5 News reported that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States. This hoax was largely consumed from online media all around the world, provoking many questions about the trustworthiness of the information received from the social media.

Worries in the European public sphere

At the EU level, many MEPs are worried about this increasing phenomenon, and some of them ask for a more integrated policy, especially in the social media sector. In April, many called on internet companies to fasten their efforts so that false and defamatory content is removed quickly. Some also asked the European Commission to propose new EU legislation in this field.

In this regard, many concerns exist about the disinformation spread from radical parties. Some studies also address the Russian influence, with the dissemination of online propagandist material.

Unesco’s Information & Communication spokesperson Frank La Rue, in occasion of a media conference in Brussels, said that it is important to start analysing the issue of fake news that right-wing sort of populist politicians are trying to use to discredit the media.

Methods for tackling online disinformation

Since the main source of fake news consumption is Facebook, the biggest social network, in collaboration with Associated Press, has recently launched the “fast checking” tool, filtering news and mentioning if they are true or not. Moreover, softwares are currently being developed, with the aim of collecting news from trustworthy websites and reporting or removing fake news.

Digital control: Solution or censorship?

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, we live in the post-truth era. It means that we value truth less than facts that satisfy our emotions, personal expectations, beliefs and ideologies.

Moreover, algorithms defining what to write, what to read and what to believe can provoke a profound violation of our freedom of expression and access to information.

The build of a more critical public sphere that checks and rejects fake news could be the best solution. Users should be encouraged to have a more active role in protecting the truth and rationalism, reporting online disinformation and really questioning the truth of stories they meet online.

This can only be achieved through education of young people, awareness-raising campaigns and knowledge strengthening.


Image: BBC/Getty Images


5G network: A new era for the EU

A new generation of network technologies, known as 5G, is entering the digital market of the EU in 2018, opening new prospects for the digital and business models. 5G is a challenging technological concept referring to the transition of the broadband Internet to incredibly high speeds, through which several devices and interfaces will be able to connect to each other.

Possible positive impacts of 5G connection

This innovative ecosystem can certainly involve several players from business and industry and could affect our daily lives.
In which way? Firstly, the high-speed connections from 1 to 10 Gbps will bring a revolution in information and communications technology, introducing virtualization and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies in our online interactions and making them much more efficient. Although the market perspectives have not been defined in terms of consumer demand, there are possible scenarios for the 5G’s usage. For instance, E-health applications could be created, through which patients in their own home would be able to monitor their blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate. Through the transmission of these data, a health service would intervene in case of need.

The transition towards a 5G wireless connection will also affect the transport and especially the vehicles. New automated driverless cars are tested in several countries of Europe, under the support of the European Automotive Telecom Alliance, the newly established organization of the European Commission, involving six countries. The research is at a primary stage, while “test-drives” have started taking place all over Europe.

High-risk challenges?

Various concerns exist, concerning the privacy and to what extent the personal data of users will be protected. Also, the prevention of hacking actions or cyber-attacks remains among the top priorities of the policy-makers. “It is a really challenging issue, but the key is the trust”, said Charanzova, MEP and Vice-Chair of IMCO, in a Politico’s event last week.

Winners and losers

According to optimistic estimations, a mass number of new investments in the wireless technology will create 22 million jobs at a global level. Entrepreneurs, employees in the manufacturing and the industrial sector and IT specialists will have many opportunities in this innovative ecosystem. However, there are concerns that traditional jobs will disappear (e.g. car drivers). As for the GDP, it is expected to increase by 4%.

5G network in the EU

In September 2016, the Commission published a Communication Paper, proposing several targeted actions to the Member States, the industry and the stakeholders for the intensification of research activities, the strengthening of the partnerships and the improvement of the current providing network facilities.

In December 2016, the Council and the European Parliament agreed to make 700 MHz band available for wireless broadband by 2020. This development will certainly accelerate the development of the 5G wireless networks in the Member States which will approve these measures at the national level.

Nevertheless, the creation of a “digital-friendly” environment is not sufficient without the support of the private sector and the coordination between the EU countries. The current investments are limited at the EU level and for this reason, the European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip called the Member States for more actions, in February 2017. The Commission is currently promoting the research programmes related to the IoT, Open Data and 5G connections under the framework of Horizon 2020. Under the EFSI funds, until now the total investment on digital technologies have reached almost €1.9 billion in research and innovation projects focused on energy, transport and societal issues.


Photo: Software Pride/Flickr