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Marcela Cușnir, IAA Young Professionals Member, Romania

The detoxification diet of fake news in the digital age

In a generation in which people are born with smartphones and tablets and are surrounded by big data, are we assisting at a manifestation of digital natives or digitally naive?

The last three years had provided enough evidence to see how mass media manipulation influences people. Thus, an unprecedented process came from an experiment initiated by the Italian government in cooperation with companies, such as Facebook and Google, with the goal of preparing a generation of students who have already been rooted in social media to recognize false news and conspiracy theories. Laura Boldrini, the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, said that "fake news are everywhere in a daily basis and we get infested even without realizing it. Then, it is natural to give these young people the opportunity to defend themselves from the lies between the lines." The program started last year and is part of an international effort that includes Greece and Malta. Children are not only taught to recognize fake news, but to hunt them down by creating their own blogs or social accounts to spread the word about them.

As it became a global phenomenon, the issue of spreading fake news determined governments to initialize concrete actions in order to protect its people. For example, the Malaysian Government already punishes those spreading false news with imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Just a few months ago, a group of tech giants, such as Google, Facebook and Mozilla, have voluntarily committed to complying with the new European Commission standards on combating misinformation through false news by signing the EU Code of Practice on Misinformation.

"It is the first time the industry has reached an agreement on the application of a set of self-regulatory standards in the fight against global misinformation said Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society."The industry is committed to a wide range of actions for the sake of the transparency of political advertising until the closure of false accounts and the demonetization of misinformation providers”, the commissioner said.

Most notably, everybody has already heard about the GDPR (EU Data Protection Regulation) and about the fact that our data can often be an exchange currency that comes into the hands of third parties with or without the approval of platforms or companies.

Facebook representatives said they could identify the moment when adolescents felt "unsure", "irrelevant", and "need more confidence". Facebook can extract information through an automated process that experts call "interference of unexpressed attributes." In other words, the network can be in possession of data following a process that closely resembles the logical deduction a man uses, in terms of artificial intelligence. In the spirit of freedom of expression and networking, a society that is guided by algorithms like "luring and buying it," is an algorithmic, not a democratic society.

Society should develop cultural antibiotics for the misinformation epidemics, and for this to happen, innovation needs to cover all levels: from organizational to social educational and mostly, legislative.

The article was written by Marcela Cușnir, IAA Young Professionals member, Romania.

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