25. Jan, 2018

Journalism that seeks the truth is the way to overcome "fake news"

Holy Father condemns the irresponsible reporting of the news

The following articles reflect on the relevance of Pope Francis' message for world communications day (https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20180124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html). First, let us reflect on God’s Word.

John 16: 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Pope warns against 'fake news' and likens it to 'crafty serpent' in Genesis 


 By Rosa Flores, CNN

  • Message is part of the Pope's World Communications Day
  • Pope says journalism that seeks the truth is the way to overcome "fake news"

Rome (CNN) Pope Francis released a message condemning "fake news," saying that it's a "sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred."

The Vatican says the message is part of the Pope's World Communications Day, but some at St. Peter's Square say the Pope was probably sending a message to Donald Trump and other world leaders who have been using the phrase "fake news."

The tragic history of human sin, the Pope says in his message, is the first "fake news" and it dates back to the book of Genesis, when the "crafty serpent" lied to the woman. In present day, according to the Pope's message the fast digital world helps fuel the spread of "fake news" -- which he defines as "the spreading of disinformation on line or in the traditional media."

"Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions and serve economic interests," the Pope said.

The Pope's message blames the difficulty in unmasking and eliminating fake news to people interacting with homogeneous news environments rather than listening to differing perspectives and opinions.

"Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas," the Pope's message said.

Pope on how to combat fake news

Journalism that seeks the truth, the Pope's message says, is the way to overcome this "fake news" phenomenon. And hence his dedication of World Day of Communication to "'The truth will set you free'. Fake news and journalism for peace."

"I would like to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news and to rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth.

"Praiseworthy efforts are being made to create educational programs aimed at helping people to interpret and assess information provided by the media, and teaching them to take an active part in unmasking falsehoods, rather than unwittingly contributing to the spread of disinformation."

Catholics have been observing World Communication day since 1967. The Pope's message is traditionally published on January 24 during the day of the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists. Catholics don't celebrate World Communication Day until May 13, but the announcement is made early to give bishops and priests time to prepare for local and national celebrations.

Pope Francis has fallen victim to fake news himself. First when a fake news site falsely reported the Pope endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. And then again, when another fake news site falsely reported he endorsed Donald Trump for President.

World leaders in the 'fake news era'

Companies who have helped spread fake news are in the hot seat. Media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google have testified before US Congress on how their sites were used as tools to disseminate misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election. With Facebook releasing that up to 150 million Americans have been exposed to content generated on its platform by a Russian government linked troll farm.

The British Government is setting up a new unit to tackle fake news, a Downing Street spokesman told CNN Tuesday. The National Security Communications Unit will be tasked with "such things as combating disinformation by state actors and others," the spokesman said.

A start date for the unit has not yet been set, but the Downing Street spokesman said UK Defense Secretary, Gavin Williamson, will give provide further details in a statement "in due course."

While Trump is probably the most well known leader to use the term "fake news" to attack journalism he is not the only one. Authoritarian leaders have jumped on his bandwagon. Syria President Bashar Al-Assad discounted allegations of torture in one of his military prisons by saying "We are living in a fake news era."

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, tried to crack down on a story he didn't like by using the phrase "fake news" in a press conference. And Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has tagged the global media as "fake news" when stories about his country are not of his liking.

'Peace is the true news'

The Pope's latest message on World Communication Day is "Peace is the true news." And the truth rests on the shoulders of those whose jobs it is to provide information: "journalists, the protectors of news."

It's not a job, but instead a mission. Journalism for peace, the Pope says, "is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans and sensational headlines."

This is not the first time Pope Francis has encouraged constructive communication and discouraged the spread of scandalous stories. During his 2017 World Communication's Day message titled "Fear not, for I am with you, Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time" he advocated for the dissemination of "good news" and the condemned "bad news" that spreads fear.

Pope says fake news is satanic, condemns use in politics https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-fakenews/pope-says-fake-news-is-satanic-condemns-use-in-politics-idUSKBN1FD1D4?feedType=RSS&feedName=newsOne

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned fake news as satanic, saying journalists and social media users should shun and unmask manipulative “snake tactics” that foment division to serve political and economic interests.

“Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth,” Francis said in the first document by a pope on the subject.

The document was issued after months of debate on how much fake news may have influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and the election of President Donald Trump.

“Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests,” the pope wrote, condemning the “manipulative use of social networks” and other forms of communication.

Called “The truth will set you free - fake news and journalism for peace”, the document was issued in advance of the Catholic Church’s World Day of Social Communications on May 13.

”This false but believable news is ‘captious’, inasmuch as it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices and exploiting instantaneous

emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration,” Francis said.


False stories, the Pope said, spread so quickly that even authoritative denials often could not contain the damage done and many people run the risk of becoming “unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas”.

He called for “education for truth” that would help people discern, evaluate and understand news in order to recognize the “sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments”.

Francis compared the use of fake news to the Bible story of the devil, who, disguised as a serpent, persuaded Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. He said she was fed wrong information by Satan, who told her the fruit would make her and Adam as all-knowing as God.

“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those (purveyors of fake news) who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, a former reporter for U.S. outlets, told Reuters Television: “The Pope is not saying that all journalists are snakes but he is certainly acknowledging that they can be.”

The pope said the role of journalists was “not just a job, it is a mission” and they had particular responsibility to stem fake news.

“Amid feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop, they must remember that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons.”

Francis said journalism should be “less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts ...a journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.”

For Pope Francis, Fake News Goes Back to the Garden of Eden https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/us/politics/pope-francis-fake-news.html


ROME — The serpent in the Garden of Eden hissed the first fake news to Eve and it all went downhill from there, Pope Francis writes in a major document about the phenomenon of fake news released on Wednesday.

“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place,” the pope writes in a message ahead of what the church has designated as its World Day of Social Communications, in May.

Arguing that the “crafty” serpent’s effective disinformation campaign to get Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge “began the tragic history of human sin,” he adds, “I would like to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news.”

Pope Francis has worn many hats since his election in 2013 — Vatican reformer; global advocate for refugeesthe poor, and world peace; and, more recently, defender of bishops accused of covering up for pedophile priests.

But in a varyingly sophisticated, spiritual and questionable analysis of the fake news epidemic, the 81-year-old pontiff tried on the cap of contemporary media critic to address an issue that has wreaked havoc and undermined democracies from the United States to Europe and beyond.

In doing so, he offered a largely cleareyed assessment of the problem, its social impact, and the responsibility of social media giants and journalists. And he called on news consumers to break out of their comfortable echo chambers and cushy news feeds by seeking out different points of view.

But at times the pope also conflated fake news, which is politically or economically motivated disinformation, with an incremental and sensational style of journalism he dislikes — a muddying of the waters that many democracy advocates have worried is corrosive to a free press and to the ideal of an informed populace.

He also failed to mention the political leaders who have used the phrase to discredit journalists and to dismiss inconvenient reporting.

Betraying a somewhat antiquated view that separates dead-tree and digital outlets, the pope defined fake news as the spreading “online or in the traditional media” of disinformation that is intended to deceive and manipulate consumers for political and economic interests.

He observed that fake news is effective because, like the snake in the garden, it insidiously mimics real news, and is “captious” — pope for clickbait — meaning that it grabs people’s attention by exploiting “emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration.”

Francis identified social networks as the delivery systems for such fake news.

“Untrue stories can spread so quickly that even authoritative denials fail to contain the damage,” he writes, adding that those living virtual lives in like-minded silos allow disinformation to thrive and that the absence of opposing viewpoints turns people into “unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas.”

Russian hackers took advantage of just such conditions in the 2016 American elections, sowing discord and attempting to sway the electorate through sophisticated influence campaigns. Francis steered clear of such real-world examples. Instead, he broadly identified greed as a key engine for the spread of fake news.