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January 15, 2018

Brussels fake news body meets for first time but has yet to sort out definition of fake news

By James Walker

The European Union’s newly established fake news body met for the first time today, but revealed that it has yet to establish a working definition for “fake news”.

The High-Level Expert Group on fake news and disinformation is comprised of figures from media, social media and academia from across the EU – including British journalists.

Experts in the group have been tasked with developing an EU strategy on tackling fake news.

The EU’s digital economy and society commissioner Mariya Gabriel (pictured) spoke at a press conference about the group’s first meeting.

When asked if the group had a working definition of fake news, Gabriel said: “That is one of the issues that the group will be working on.

“We already touched on this this morning during the first meeting. We have set ourselves the goal of looking at how to define fake news.”

Top news outlets have already produced definitions of fake news, namely that it is entirely fabricated stories told for financial and political gain.

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In her opening speech, Gabriel said fake news was “spreading at a worrying rate” and “threatened” the reputation of the media and democracy.

She continued: “With the support and involvement of all, we have to draw approaches to controlling and limiting the circulation of fake news.

“We fully support freedom of expression and the right to access information. Nobody is forcing citizens to believe or not believe a particular piece of news.

“However, if we don’t take the appropriate measures against fake news at EU level, there is a great risk that the situation will get worse.”

Earlier today the EU commission tweeted: “We need to find a balanced approach between the freedom of expression, media pluralism and a citizens’ right to access diverse and reliable information.”

The EU commission launched the fake news body alongside a public consultation on fake news and disinformation in November last year.

Members of the group were unveiled last Friday.

Tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have one representative each in the High-Level Expert Group.

Sky News’ head of home news Sarah Whitehead is also a member of Brussels’ fake news body, as is First Draft’s Claire Wardle and Stephen Rae of Ireland’s Independent News and Media

It is expected that the group will produce a report on fake news and disinformation in Spring this year.

The results of an EU public consultation on fake news will be published in March of this year.

According to the commission website, the consultation is collecting public definitions of fake news and assessments of how well news media companies and social media platforms have countered fake news.

The commission says the results of the consultation will also be used to consider “scope for future actions to strengthen quality information and prevent the spread of disinformation online”.

Picture: Commission Audiovisual Services

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