The Fear of Fake News May Be the End of Europe

By Mason Mohon | EUROPE

1984 was a warning, not a manual.

France and the U.K. have had talks about the regulation of fake news, and what they are going to do to stop the spread of it. Macron has made statements that around the election seasons, there would be an increase in regulation around the media. This was his response to what he saw as disinformation being spread about him by popular alternative news source Russia Today.

Even more recently, the U.K. government has decided to dig in its heels and say that free speech regulations are on their way as part of a defense program. The prime minister’s spokesman said:

We are living in an era of fake news and competing narratives. The government will respond with more and better use of national security communications to tackle these interconnected, complex challenges.

But what does this all mean? What are the implications behind such a crackdown?

Fake News Phenomenon

With the election of Donald Trump and the 2016 election cycle, skepticism behind reporting from mainstream media sources has risen. Trust in CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC is at the lowest we have seen in quite a long time, and alternative media sources have seen gains in response.

When it gets down to it, it is a great thing that people, both American and European, are adding skepticism to their utility belt of political resources, but there are two ways that this can go wrong.

The first issue is that citizens may look at any news against “their team” as fake. In the United States, any negative reporting on Donald Trump is just brushed off as fake news by r/The_Donald and conservatives all over Twitter. When they can call it fake news, and pretend their president is all good and perfect, why wouldn’t they?

This issue is dwarfed by the other result of fake news-phobia. As mentioned before, the state is going after it in many different European nations. People should be in panic whenever the government becomes the arbiter of what is and is not true. As Robbie Travers reported:

If having a Government body decide what can and cannot be published – thereby creating a culture of both official censorship and self-censorship — is not enough to concern you, the briefest glance at what this newly created British body would consider “Fake News” should send you running into the street.

If the government can now decide what is and is not true, what the succeeds in media then becomes what does and doesn’t conform to the government’s view.

Why We Have Free Press

The first amendment to the US Constitution protects, among other rights, the freedom of the press. The founding fathers added this in because they saw the press of the regulator of the regulator. Someone needs to keep the government in check, so private institutions need the freedom to do so.

The Sedition Act passed by President Adams in our early years sought to ban criticism of the government. The U.S. has done this all before, and we have seen that these types of regulations are not morally right, nor do they work. We need a private apparatus to keep the institution of violence checked, which means that a free and unregulated press is integral to any free society.

The Solution?

There are two problems that we face; people deny the truth, and the government regulates news. Both of these are critical issues that require our attention.

The solution to the first problem falls on you and I. We have to be responsible and keep up our integrity in the course of debate and argument, and if somebody provides a fact, we cannot dismiss it as fake news. Even if the facts are convicting of you and your beliefs, they are facts.

The solution to the problem of the government is the market. The U.S. handled the fake news crisis very well. As people began to hate the mainstream media, they started reading alternative news sources. When people feel that they have been lied to, they demand a new source of information. In the marketplace, demand is a business opportunity.

We can rely on the free market to provide reliable information as long as the people feel that reliable information is needed. Government involvement will quickly turn the tide and turn all into people asking the state if they can say certain things. That is no way to organize a society, which is why things are looking grim for the European countries.

Image form Business Cloud News.