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'Fake news' inquiry opened by MPs

A UK parliamentary committee has opened an inquiry into so-called 'fake news'.31 Jan 2017

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee said fake news presents a threat to democracy and that it will look at ways to address this risk.

The Committee said it is keen to understand where the line is between "biased but legitimate commentary" and "propaganda and lies".

It said it wants to know what impact fake news has on "public understanding of the world, and also on the public response to traditional journalism", and whether the way people use and respond to fake news differs depending on their age, gender or social background.

The Committee said it also seeking feedback on whether "changes in the selling and placing of advertising" has "encouraged the growth of fake news", such as "by making it profitable to use fake news to attract more hits to websites, and thus more income from advertisers".

The Committee will also look at whether it is "viable" to use algorithms to separate fake news from "genuine reporting" and what responsibilities search engines and social media platforms have to tackle the issue.

Stakeholders can submit written evidence to the Committee up until 3 March.

Damian Collins MP, chair of the Committee, said: "The growing phenomenon of fake news is a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general. Just as major tech companies have accepted they have a social responsibility to combat piracy online and the illegal sharing of content, they also need to help address the spreading of fake news on social media platforms."

"Consumers should also be given new tools to help them assess the origin and likely veracity of news stories they read online. The Committee will be investigating these issues, as well as looking into the sources of fake news, what motivates people to spread it, and how it has been used around elections and other important political debates."

The European Commission later this year intends to issue "guidance on the different types of voluntary measures adopted by online platforms”, a report by the Financial Times said.

According to the report, the EU's digital commissioner Andrus Ansip said he backs "self-regulatory measures" to address fake news, but that the Commission is ready to step in "if some kind of clarifications are needed".

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