The problem of fake news grew so enormously that it needs to be discussed at all level of governance. Olgierd Geblewicz , Marshal of the Westpomeranian Region, has therefore proposed to organize a seminar for members of the European Committee of the Regions on fake news, propaganda and hate speech in Szczecin next year.
Below, he outlines his reasons:
Seventy two years after the end of the Second World War and sixty years after singing the Treaty of Rome Europe is one of the most prosperous part of the world. Nevertheless, in recent years, we have seen the rise of right wing political forces, which feed citizens with a narrative of national selfishness, mistrust of foreign societies, and fear. To convince people of their points, they have started to create a parallel reality, by producing fake news, which have been spread, read and increasingly believed.
Fake news factories have become a worldwide phenomenon.
Public opinion was shocked again recently when a famous U.S. Twitter star, supporting Trump Jenna Abrams, appeared to be a Russian bot. But, if one doubts the great and destructive power of fake news in the EU, let’s recall the campaign before the referendum on Brexit. According to polls, one third of Brits believed that thanks to Brexit, the NHS will receive 350 £ a week. The statements of politicians after the referendum results which termed this as “a mistake”, prove that fake news is more: it is a dangerous political tool.
The European Union is constantly attacked by negative narration from external countries. Russian anti EU propaganda has become such a powerful foreign policy tool that the EU had to initiate the East StratCom Task Force, which counters the flow of fake news on a daily basis. News, which is produced abroad, is easily absorbed by internal anti-EU circles and that leads to an unnecessary crisis of mutual trust of the European nations, and mostly to the EU Institutions. The growth of Euroscepticism, reflects in elections results in many European countries. The number of parliamentary representatives, and also governments, unfavorable to the idea of European unity has increased dramatically over the past few years. Political representatives more often use the public media to spread propaganda, and fake news, to keep their power. Simultaneously they stigmatize journalists, who oppose their narration and sometimes use public institutions to intimidate the most defiant ones. The green light for the dissemination of fake news given by authorities is one of the most dangerous enemies of democracy. This phenomenon became particularly visible in Poland, where, now called, National Media feed the audience with pro-government propaganda, at the same time insulting opposition, foreign partners, and institutions undermining unlawful actions of Polish public institutions.
We are witnessing the collapse of democracy in one of the biggest countries in the EU and undoubtedly fake news and propaganda are the most lethal weapon carried by the the army of pro-government journalists. These examples are not just remote accidents among the EU political scene, but there are part of a bigger picture, which dynamically grows. Without strong commitment condemning such behavior, it may dominate in our European society.
We urgently need to exchange experiences and work out mechanisms to defend ourselves from fake news at regional and local level.