OSCE Warsaw: Dealing With “Fake News” Without Censorship

2018 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Freedom of the Media, Session 3

Intervention read by Henrik Clausen, representing Wiener Akademikerbund

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for uploading this video:

Below is the prepared text for Mr. Clausen’s intervention:

Dealing with “Fake News” without censorship

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. I am Henrik Clausen, representing Wiener Akademikerbund of Austria. We are dedicated to peace, freedom and prosperity. I shall now address the problem of so-called ”Fake News”.

Wiener Akademikerbund recommends:

  • That governments take the utmost care not to be misled by “Fake News”.
  • That OSCE pS abstain from condemning inconvenient news as “Fake News”.
  • That a working group be established to draft lenient regulations of online speech.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly said “Fake news has real consequences”, like the 2016 WikiLeaks revelations of political corruption, falsely blamed on Russia, or the citizens of Chemnitz, Germany framed as ‘Nazis’ for voicing their concerns.

Fake news is tricky. Who has the authority to decide what is fake? States? NGOs? Private corporations? Can any of these be trusted with deciding what is fake, now and in the future? And will inconvenient news be labelled ‘fake’ in order to get rid of it?

One way to control the news is the “Istanbul Process”. However, this is based on a flawed interpretation of ‘incitement’ in article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is vulnerable to exploitation by enemies of freedom.

In a truly free society, we cannot prevent fake news from appearing. It is, however, a professional duty of our elected representatives to see through these, patiently investigate the facts, and not let fake news cause harm. If confidence in public institutions is at risk, the solution is to honestly address any issues raised.

A proper, freedom-oriented solution to the problem of fake news is use of classical journalistic virtues: Knowing history and relevant background, ideologies and involved parties. Competence reveals and disarms fake news, as well as any malign motivations of those propagating them.

Fortunately, our American friends have a good example of how to handle Fake News. The American FCC regulations for broadcast media is narrow in scope. It states:

The FCC prohibits broadcasting false information about a crime or a catastrophe if the broadcaster knows the information is false and will cause substantial “public harm” if aired.

This lenient approach encourages honest reporting while malign reporting is still punishable, according to the damage done. We need similar regulation for online media, to protect our freedom. Mistakes, bad ideas, bad reporting or analysis are self-incriminating, and require little or no state intervention.

For links to previous articles about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, see the OSCE Archives.

6 thoughts on “OSCE Warsaw: Dealing With “Fake News” Without Censorship

  1. I’m afraid I disagree with the solution recommended by Clausen.

    He recommends shrinking the government role in filtering news by limiting its scope of action to that of the FCC, which forbids the broadcasting of news known to be false and capable of causing harm.

    But, in fact, this, if true, is unconstitutional. The Constitution reads “shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech”. So, speech cannot be prohibited a priori, and cannot be censored by a government afterwards, according to the constitution. Lies about individual can come under libel, but speech cannot be censored.

    It is a mistake to try to restrict government oversight over free speech to only include blatantly false speech. The only acceptable restriction on news is the first amendment: No restriction. Zero. Only the marketplace of ideas can be used to ultimately label claims as true or false.

    • What we want is to get grid of any prior restraint to expression, and currently, we are very far from that, as we see in the current government policies.

      It should be possible to phrase all harmful communications in other terms than the expression itself, such as fraud, deception, sedition, conspiracy to commit crimes, incitement to crimes and more.

      But please note that the FCC regulation targets only knowingly broadcasting false information that causes immediate, substantial harm. That is narrow in scope – and possibly useful against Antifa groups.

    • Also, please read this carefully’ The FCC regulations are not forbidding broadcast capable of causing harm. It only targets publishing false news intentionally, and which caused immediate, substantial harm.

      • Let me say I’m following your work through the articles here on GoV and deeply appreciate the time and efforts you put in to try to maintain the vestiges of freedom in the Western European countries. It is a battle that also defends freedom in the US. The US does have a bill of rights which is our effective backup life support system preventing, so far, the totalitarian travesty of the English and Western Europe governments. The abuses of liberal federal judges and the close Supreme Court decisions on what should be a slam-dunk judgement supporting the Bill of Rights, show that basic liberties in the US are fragile and can use help from the European front.

        I also recognize you are trying to move from a totalitarian system of thought control to a reasonable sanction only on speech causing physical harm.

        Nevertheless, I must continue to disagree with you. There are enough ill-defined terms, “publishing false news intentionally”, “caused immediate substantial harm” to open the door to interpretation of the state of mind of the publisher, and to subjective definitions of “substantial harm”. The leftist snowflakes will claim that hearing “hate” speech, especially if they are Muslim, causes them “substantial harm”. You have to debate them on subjective grounds: “substantial harm is physical damage, not mental anguish”.

        But yet, you’re battling on the wrong battlefield. If any parties claim to be damaged, they should take it to a court of slander or liable and sue for damages. This has problems itself, but at least you’re not in the situation of permanent bureaucrats making a job for themselves ferreting out instances of speech causing “substantial harm” and trying to ban or punish it. It’s on the order of the Canadian Commission on Human Rights, which has evolved into a potent and permanent force for censorship of speech.

        • I understand your point of view and also agree with it but, I am an American born and raised in a country with free speech.
          What I think Mr. Clausen is trying for is “half a loaf”.
          The situation in the UK and Europe has become so out of control and let’s face it, if the citizens didn’t go along with it it wouldn’t be happening. When the Yorkshire Police solicit snitches of “non criminal speech” anyone rational will recognize how far gone things are. So maybe Mr. Clausen is trying to bring some sanity back. But yes, having a gov’t employee decide what is false or hateful is not the optimum outcome but they have to start somewhere.

          • Actually, my primary purpose is to call out to the globalist [villains] in the assembly and OSCE, telling them:
            “You are driving for censorship, and you know it!”

            The FCC regulations are narrow in scope, requiring a full four conditions to be present in order to be applicable. Those are ‘knowingly’, ‘false’, ‘immediate’ and ‘substantial’. Also, this does not apply a priori, only after the fact, and (as I understood it) must be proven in court. So this is not some low-level bureaucrat having license to censor anything he dislikes, and then claims might cause harm.
            Let us take an example: Back in April, MSM at large posted false news about a chemical attack in Douma, Syria. This led to immediate, substantial harm to some Syrian infrastructure. But would this hold up in court, making this publication punishable?
            I don’t think so, for one of the conditions is not fulfilled: ‘Knowingly’. The MSM lawyers (God save their dark souls) could point to the fact that MSM journalists have confidence in Jihadi propaganda organisations such as White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and then get off the hook, legally. Though it would still be embarrassing to some parties.
            There is a fine line between freedom and anarchy. Being Danish, I am used to a situation where our Constitution is a whole lot stricter than the American one (ours basically give our politicians license to make any expression punishable), and a regulation similar to the FCC one seems to be a very fine alternative to the fearsome mess we have right now – see also the Istanbul Process and the Rabat Plan of Action.

Comments are closed.