Politics

/

ArcaMax

‘Fake news’ legislation risks doing more harm than good amid a record number of elections in 2024

Samuel Jens, Stony Brook University (The State University of New York), The Conversation on

Published in Political News

“Fake news” legislation that governments around the world have written in recent years to combat mis- and disinformation does little to protect journalistic freedom. Rather, it can create a greater risk of harm.

That’s the main finding of a review I helped conduct of legislation either considered or passed over the past several years related to fake news and mis- and disinformation. In all, the Center for News, Technology and Innovation, or CNTI – an independent, global policy research center comprising news professionals and academics like myself – looked at legislation in 31 countries, ranging from Ethiopia to the Philippines.

We drew upon previous reports and data from the Center for International Media Assistance, LEXOTA and LupaMundi – all of which track media laws globally – to identify legislation either considered or passed from 2020 through 2023.

We analyzed 32 pieces of legislation by qualitatively and quantitatively coding key terms concerning, among others, “news” and “journalism,” “fake news” and “journalists,” and any authorities responsible for overseeing these terms.

While the legislation targeted what was termed “fake news,” the phrase itself was only explicitly defined in just seven of the 32 pieces of legislation we looked at – or less than a quarter.

Fourteen of the 32 policies clearly designate the government itself with the authority to arbitrate that definition, while 18 don’t provide any clear language in that regard – thereby giving government control by default.

 

Lack of clarity in “fake news” laws can be found across different regime types, with 12 of these 31 countries we looked at considered to be democracies.

Meanwhile, punishment for violations can be severe, including imprisonment from several months up to 20 years in Zimbabwe.

We found there are few protections for fact-based news or journalistic independence in the legislation we examined. Loosely defined laws pertaining to “fake news” could be used by governments to crack down on an independent press.

The record number of national-level elections being held in 2024 comes amid concern about the public’s access to reliable, fact-based news – both in terms of the independence of news outlets and the potential to use media to spread disinformation.

...continued

swipe to next page

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus