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.


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