Contagion Now!

Labour calls on media and tech firms to combat spread of fake news

British politics is at risk of being ‘infected by this contagion’, says report by former shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher


There was, he said, a duty for news organisations and journalists to verify information they used and “avoid the temptation to publish clickbait nonsense in a voracious quest for web traffic”.

The idea of fake news had taken off during the US presidential election campaign, Dugher said, adding: “In Britain too, our politics risks becoming infected by this contagion.”

The dominance of tech giants such as Google and Facebook in disseminating information posed a similar challenge to UK governments over plurality as they face with the concentration of newspaper ownership in a few hands, he wrote.

He said the need for tech firms to do more did not mean there was no need to tackle inaccurate reporting in the traditional press.

Dugher said: “No one has done more than Tom Watson when it came to highlighting the failings of the newspapers over phone-hacking and other corrupt practices or to challenge the influence of the Murdoch empire on politics. That is why we will continue to support change.

“But we in the Labour party, who have so often been on the wrong side of misrepresentations and unfair attacks from the rightwing media, also have a responsibility to be vigilant and reject fake news material on social media and elsewhere – even if it purports to come from the left.”

Dugher has been asked by Watson to look into “the changing way news is consumed and shared online, and at the practical, political and ethical issues raised by fake news”. He is due to report on the spring.


About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. He has a PhD in social-cultural-digital contagion theory from the Sociology Department at the University of Essex. He is a former art student who re-entered higher education in the UK as a mature student in the mid-1990s after a long stint as a gigging musician. His career in education has moved through various disciplines and departments, including a maths and computing faculty, sociology department and school of digital media and design His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, July 2018) and The Sleepwalker's Guide to Social Media (due 2020 with Polity Press). Tony is the organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK (see archive on this blog). As a co-founder and co-director of the public engagement initiatives, Club Critical Theory (CCT) and the Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG), Tony has been project lead on a number of funded projects that bring impactful critical theories into the community and local political sphere to approach. These activities have included large conferences, symposia and informal lectures/workshops in pubs and community centres, co-organized with community groups and local authorities. Tony occasionally blogs at: Full academic profile:
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