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.