Last week, potential President-elect Hillary Clinton delivered a stark warning about the exponential rise in fake news over the unregulated internet, particularly over the last year, and the dangers it poses to civilization. Experts now agree that fake news was one of the key forces that helped Donald Trump steal the Presidency from what looked like a sure win for Hillary, and government regulators are now beginning to take it more seriously and take bold steps towards filtering it.
Sites like Infowars, run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, conservative fake news aggregator Drudge.com, and fake financial news site Zerohedge.com, have risen to prominence through manipulation of the facts and sensational reporting, which smears respected politicians, public figures and financiers, while promoting radical right-wing ideologies and political candidates. Virtually every fake news source openly praised or endorsed Trump during this election, while launching an unprecedented disinformation campaign against Hillary using the stolen and forged Wikileaks documents.
Putin has artfully exploited this wave of fake news to promote his own agenda, latching onto fake news headlines and sharing them through the Russian propaganda outlet RT. The UK government has been leading the war against Russia’s propaganda campaign by delivering pages of regulatory guidance for reporters throughout the country on what they can and cannot report, and even threatening to shut down RT’s UK bank account if they refuse to cease their subversive activities.
Experts have also determined that the shock Brexit vote could not have happened without fake news sources reporting scare stories about the drawbacks and supposed ‘risks’ of European unity, which included a disgusting campaign of hate-speech against Muslim immigrants, sparking a wave of Islamaphobic hatred across Europe. Following the disasters of Brexit and Trump, the EU issued an emergency warning to social media giants to filter fake news within 24 hours or face dire consequences, and many including Reddit have duly complied by filtering out links to the conspiracy sites like Infowars, among others.
For years, fake news outlets were a minor inconvenience, occasionally sucking in gullible readers and spreading mistrust of respected politicians. But recently, fake news has become a much more serious problem, threatening to undo decades of political progress and ushering in a new wave of global fascism. Government regulators are starting to recognize the severity of this threat, and are starting to take bold actions to counter it. I urge world leaders to move fast though, because if this fire is not put out soon, there is a risk that the Streisand Effect could propel discredited fake news outlets to even greater prominence and influence. The time to act is now, and we must be bold, vicious and determined in order to recapture the narrative and steer the world away from darkness and back in the direction of progress. The future of our children, and of our planet depends on it.