Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
censorship, fake news, fines, italy



Now Italy Wants To Make 'Fake News' Illegal

from the but-can-you-define-it? dept

Over and over again, we've talked about the ridiculousness of the moral panic around so-called "fake news" -- a broad and somewhat meaningless term now used to describe just about anything from actual made-up stories, to news articles that have a small factual error, to those with a "spin" that someone disagrees with. And, as we warned, the panic of "fake news" is leading to widespread calls for censorship. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how German officials were supporting a plan to criminalize "fake news" and now Italy wants to join in on the fun. In an interview with the country's antitrust chief, Giovanni Pitruzzella, he argued that it's really time to crack down on the internet, with government wielding the censorship power over whatever it calls "fake news."
“Post-truth in politics is one of the drivers of populism and it is one of the threats to our democracies,” Pitruzzella said. “We have reached a fork in the road: we have to choose whether to leave the internet like it is, the wild west, or whether it needs rules that appreciate the way communication has changed. I think we need to set those rules and this is the role of the public sector.”

Pitruzzella argued tackling fake news should not be left up to social media companies, but instead be tackled by the state through independent authorities with the power to remove fake news and impose fines, coordinated by Brussels, similar to the way the EU regulates competition.
Any time you hear of a plan for the government to be able to remove news stories or impose fines for reporting, you should get very, very worried. That is a recipe for censorship. Yes, blatantly made-up stories are a problem -- but not one that should be dealt with by expanding the tools of censorship in a way that will be abused. We need to teach better media literacy and get more people to understand how to read critically and to do research. Putting tools to censor and fine journalists in the hands of government will inevitably lead to that power being abused. Someone will report on something that makes a politician look bad, and suddenly it will be declared "fake news." We're seeing that happen already -- even without the threat of fines and censorship.

This focus on "fake news" is becoming increasingly dangerous and many of the people screaming loudest about it -- including lots of journalists -- don't seem to realize where it will end. You can worry about truly made-up stories all you want, but if you think the solution to it is to increase the powers to censor and stifle and chill expression, you're not going to be happy with how it boomerangs back on legitimate expression.

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  1. identicon
    Leonardo Da VeniVidiVici, 3 Jan 2017 @ 3:37am

    So no more www.LaCippola.it for us

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    PrivateFrazer, 3 Jan 2017 @ 3:39am

    How dare you call this censorhip! We will have to fine you for Fake News.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 4:01am

    How does one distinguish between satire and political spin as applied to stories? Will the politicians put into practice their usual "do as we say and not as we do"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 4:02am

    the velvet glove...

    ...is coming off the iron fist of Empire...
    it will only ratchet to total oppression, it don't go the other way...
    power never devolves voluntarily, now what to do ? ? ?
    surely, voting for ______ will do the trick...
    surely...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Annonymouse, 3 Jan 2017 @ 4:10am

    Re: the velvet glove...

    Polygraph and taser

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Annonymouse, 3 Jan 2017 @ 4:10am

    Re: the velvet glove...

    Polygraph and taser

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Dingledore the Mildly Uncomfortable When Seated, 3 Jan 2017 @ 4:18am

    It's not ridiculous, but....

    ridiculousness of the moral panic around so-called "fake news"

    Fake news, as in made up stories that purport to be informative, is news that is fake. Demeaning it as "so called" because you don't believe it's a big issue feels a bit hypocritical from someone whose country has just elected Donald "Pathological Liar" Trump to be their leader.

    It is a problem and needs to be dealt with. However, you're right that censorship is not the solution. The real solution is for the real journals to rebuild the trust with their readers by reporting the news accurately, fairly, impartially, and clearly. And it that news happens to be detailing why fake news stories are wrong, then so be it.

    I can't help feeling that the mainstream news websites are really not helping the cause when they're plastered with clickbait stories and intrusive adverts. If you want someone to read something, you really have to give it to them in a format that can be easily read.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 4:37am

    Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Fake news will be the term used to describe anything that does meet your narrative and it will be abused in a fashion similar to the word terrorism which as you probably are already aware is used to describe anyone who does not meet your expectations in regard to race, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, social position and/or politics.


    "The real solution is for the real journals to rebuild the trust with their readers"

    I doubt this will solve the problem of corruption within the media industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 5:14am

    Hmmm...

    So next time the MPAA / RIAA cries that piracy is killing the artists, we can slap them with a 'fake news fine'?

    Sure, sign me up!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Caleb (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 5:38am

    Can we call this what it is?

    It's not "fake news". It is yellow journalism. We already have an appropriate term, that comes with significant history and lessons learned. Calling it fake news masks that history and leads me to wonder why someone chose to differentiate the two.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 5:49am

    Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Within ten years we saw the term terrorist go from being applied to people like Mcveigh exclusively, to now being used to discuss the average armed gang member. Nothing physically changed, but now police are much more likely to use deadly force, due to terrorists deserving the lack of reserve and restraint.

    I always that the Milgram Experiment was a warning, not a guideline.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 5:53am

    Italy can lodge their fake journalists...

    ...in the jail cell next to their fake seismologists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Richard (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 5:58am

    Re: Can we call this what it is?

    Calling it fake news masks that history and leads me to wonder why someone chose to differentiate the two. Well "yellow journalism" doesn't mean anything unless you know that history (and given that the history is US based that pretty much exludes everyone else).

    "Fake news" on the other hand pretty much "does what it says on the tin" (UK cultural reference).

    Normally I'm against the idea of coming up with a new name for an old concept - but this time there may be a point - unless you think that the old term "propaganda" covers it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:02am

    Look on the bright side...

    Now all you human caused global warming zealots can use this to punish the "non believers".

    There can be some very interesting outcomes for these laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Richard (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Within ten years we saw the term terrorist go from being applied to people like Mcveigh exclusively, to now being used to discuss the average armed gang member.

    Not really - the phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" has been around for a while.

    What has happened is that terrorism has become much more commonplace across the world - where previously it was confined to certain hotspots - and therefore people are much more twitchy about it.

    Having said that I do wonder if you would consider it comforting to be told "don't worry he's not a terrorist, he's just an armed gang member" if someone was pointing a machine gun at you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:08am

    Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Considering the MSM was full of fake news favoring Hillary, the MSM has made itself irrelevant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:10am

    Re: Look on the bright side...

    Allowed to go to its logical conclusion, these laws will be used to squash all dissent. No discussion will be allowed or tolerated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:30am

    Re: Re: Look on the bright side...

    Yes, that is indeed the point of these laws.

    Every law on the books has the potential for good or evil use. Considering how most governments think they are above the law what are the chances that the good application of the law is likely to outweigh the evil? We might as well start searching for unicorns because there is usually something incorrect where a human is involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Perhaps you have not been reading the news from a variety of sources, but ....


    "terrorism has become much more commonplace across the world"

    Because now everyone you do not like is a terrorist, this was not the case prior to 911.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:36am

    Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Yeah, I'm sure you are correct in that all fake news was in support of Hillary while there was nothing fake about any stories anywhere else that did not include her.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Or how about the extra legal issues you face when you get classified as a terrorist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:40am

    Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    Yellow Journalism does not exclude all nations other than the us. Not sure where you get that.

    Now propaganda would certainly be an appropriate term to describe what has recently been called fake news, much of same could also be considered yellow journalism, both of which have been around since the dawn of human existence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    I am addressing MSM only. They were in full collusion with HRC and the DNC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Aren't you cute.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 6:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    It excludes them because even if they know english, the term "yellow journalism" is distinctly american in origin, history, and common usage. So, to say "we" already have a term for it is incorrect if by "we" you mean all countries commonly using english. Not everyone had a term for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 7:11am

    Mussolini would be proud.

    Same old same old.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Vidiot (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 7:34am

    Re: Can we call this what it is?

    John Oliver has a term for it, too:

    "Calling it ‘fake news’ upsets me, because it's just lying.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 7:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    I guess if you can't address the issue send up a smokescreen. The MSM focus on fake news is to take attention off themselves. The fact that you excuse their behavior because they were playing for your team speaks poorly of you. Off they ate to remain the 4th estate, they not choose up sides.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:19am

    So when politicians spout their lies/stats during a campaign - can this be considered fake news?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Seegras (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    I actually call it propaganda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:24am

    Re: Hmmm...

    We really should be able to, but unfortunately Dodd's got his grubby little fingers embedded in mass media.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    Ninja (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:26am

    The "terrorism" bogeyman isn't working anymore. They had to choose a new target.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:47am

    Italy attempts to sneakily make memes illegal. Memes to be had... now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    But propaganda isn't necessarily lies. It may just be framing facts in favorable light or lie by omission.

    Usually the best propaganda aren't lies, they're just misleading or actually useless information if you look at what's really being said. Like all those phrases in advertising: "Up to 80% off!"*

    *only applies to one product which will probably be sold out by the time you get here. everything else is normal price.

    Where if they really wanted to be helpful and not deceptive, they would tell you everything is at least x% off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Stosh, 3 Jan 2017 @ 9:20am

    Bring it to the US

    But phase it in slowly. The networks will need time to line up Star Trek re-runs to replace their news programming...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    And you continue clinging to the (fake?) stories that support your narrative.

    Point is, all news is potentially "fake" - it depends upon to whom you are speaking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    and there is a big difference between truth and fact.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    So, if something is "distinctly american" then it can not be used in discussion (in english) of things that occur in other countries - got it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    Lies of omission are not lies?

    Interesting

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    It's not that it cannot be used, it's just that it's silly to try to force others to use it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 12:56pm

    "Now Italy Wants To Make 'Fake News' Illegal"

    And rightfully so - period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    Don't need to cling to any narrative, unlike the left. The media was shown to be in bed with HRC and DNC and yet you still lap up what they feed you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 5:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's not ridiculous, but....

    You know next to nothing about me and yet you continue to make wild accusations you can not back up.

    Is there a name that the medical profession has given to this condition? Is it treatable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. icon
    Eldakka (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 7:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    Lies of omission are not lies?

    No they are not, hence the term is made up of a phrase lie of omission as opposed to just the word lie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45. icon
    Eldakka (profile), 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:05pm

    Re: Bring it to the US

    Nah, Star Trek is still in copyright, so they'd have to pay for it.

    Probably put It's a Wonderful Life on a continuous loop since it's out of copyright, which is BTW why it's on every Christmas, it's free for the broadcasters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 8:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    But propaganda isn't necessarily lies. It may just be framing facts in favorable light or lie by omission.

    Lying by omission is still lying. Though liars do like to pretend otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 9:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    Wow, it is so clear to me now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2017 @ 9:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    If a liar tells you they are not lying .. do you believe them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can we call this what it is?

    It's not lying.
    lie n.
    1.
    an intentionally false statement.

    If you've said nothing false, you've not lied.

    But it is deceptive. It feels like a lie because people are so ingrained with the the cooperative principle.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_principle

    You generally assume people are being cooperative when speaking to you which leads you to all sorts of conclusions that are not necessarily sound because you've made an incorrect assumption (that the person was being cooperative).
    http://www.qwantz.com/comics/comic2-1298.png

    It's deceptive, it's arguably reprehensible, but it's not a lie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:39am

    Re: Mussolini would be proud.

    Translation, Italy bans nytimes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51. identicon
    GEMont, 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:57am

    You can fool most of the people all of the time.

    "You can worry about truly made-up stories all you want, but if you think the solution to it is to increase the powers to censor and stifle and chill expression, you're not going to be happy with how it boomerangs back on legitimate expression."

    ... you're not going to be happy ...

    Unless of course, increasing the powers to censor and stifle and chill expression, just happens to be you're heart's desire, in which case;

    "... you're going to sing tidings of comfort and joy ..."

    might be a better choice of words.

    Sigh. Someday, folks will realise that manufacturing crisis in order to create public demand for "protective" legislation, is nothing more than a business model... one that really works, and is thus used repeatedly to generate wealth by reverse interpretation, through precise wording that allows easy re-purposing.

    One of the most common topics seen in these forums is the recognition of "loose" wording in new laws pertaining to copyright, innovation, and censorship, that can be used to do the opposite of what the law purports to be for.

    It amazes me how this process by governments slides right past everyone, no matter how often its used.

    Instead, the Grand Public Response is - a sigh, followed by the old adage of;

    "Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to incompetence."

    This is not a statement of what is.
    Its an instruction taught by the 1% and learned by the rest.

    Ah well, Hope Springs Eternal.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:53am

    Re:

    That's Political talk and so it's OK! Can't just flat out call it a LIE.

    If you don't want a politician to lie, they would just have to stand there and not say anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Bring it to the US

    That's some kind of back luck from that movie as it should be under Copyright for pretty much forever like most everything else is. Nothing has gone into Public Domain in years. You can thank Micky Mouse for that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54. identicon
    Fake news is criminal, 13 Jan 2017 @ 5:26pm

    Fake News Sucks

    Fake News is stupid

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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