The spread of fake news, called "fake news", is a scourge as old as the emergence of social networks. The ingenuity of the users to share sensational news, regardless of source, credible or not, gave rise to the meme "if you are on the internet it is because it is true." The problem is when the avalanche of "fake news" reaches dimensions that impact society, making it a million-dollar business for many.
It has already been proved that sensational news, adorned with curious (but false) details can reach a greater extent than any genuine news, investigated and published by a credible source. The world "woke up to the reality" that something would have to change in the United States presidential elections in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected. This is because without checking facts, people (and many trawlers) share stories that are not true.
In 2017 began to plan some tighter measures by social networks such as Facebook or Google, much due to the tight siege of some governments such as Germany that has moved forward with a bill to enforce financial sanctions of up to 50 million euros platforms that do not prevent or prevent the publication of false news or hate speech. The technological giants reacted and invested millions of dollars in the implementation of fake news tools. And from the first day of 2018, the German law came into force, forcing social networks to remove fake news and hate speech within 24 hours or seven days in "complex cases".
As 2017 progressed, and no matter how much we tried to fight the spread of fake news, much remained to be done, leading Brussels to leave the message in the previous edition of the Web Summit that "it was time to stop being naive," underlining that the theme was an attempt on democracy and that steps would be taken …
The spread of "fake news", in the case of the elections that put the magnate Donald Trump in power, exploded in the first months of the year with the Cambridge Analytica case, considered one of the biggest invasions of privacy in social networks. The controversy involved Facebook for the use and manipulation of data from millions of users of the social network. Mark Zuckerberg's company was accused of improper access to 87 million profiles and its use to influence the results of the current US president's campaign but also in the referendum on Brexit, the UK's exit from the European Union. In Portugal alone, 63,000 Portuguese accounts were affected in the scandal and in Europe, it is estimated that 2.7 million profiles were involved.
This controversy left Facebook under close attack by users, public figures and companies, leading to the abandonment of advertising investment by large entities, such as Mozilla and the British Advertising Society representing more than 3,000 brands of "giants." The divestment has even prompted Facebook to make a huge bust in the stock market, having registered one of the biggest negative brands on Wall Street, worth $ 136 billion, although there were other worse falls in the technology sector …
The general contestation against Facebook put Mark Zuckerberg in a veritable whirlwind of "apologies," but without getting rid of a 10-hour questioning of the US Senate and Congress. The "digression" of the apologies also went through Europe, with the Facebook boss better prepared to face the European Parliament, admitting that the social network had not done enough to protect user data, prevent its misuse, as well as the dissemination of fake news.
Facebook will have one of the darkest chapters of its history in 2018, but it has served as a motivation for regulators and technological giants to move ahead with measures. One of the loudest voices all year long was Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, who called for tight laws for the protection of personal data, arguing that knowing intimate details of people through an internet history should not exist. And when the RGPD was implemented in May, Tim Cook pointed out that the measures implemented by the European Union were exemplary for the rest of the world, with regard to privacy protection and misuse of personal data, challenging the United States to adopt a similar system.
Facebook has been the target of several calls for injury to users. In Portugal, for example, DECO filed a lawsuit against the social network, claiming up to 2,000 euros for each Portuguese user. Italy has fined Facebook 10 million euros for selling user data without informing them correctly. It remains to be seen, however, what sanctions Brussels will apply to the company of Mark Zuckerberg, with Portuguese MEP Carlos Coelho asking for clarification of how to compensate users harmed by the violation of their data.
Returning to the sensitive topic of "fake news", despite the controversy that Facebook was involved, Mark Zuckerberg argues that erasing false news is not a solution. His words came in the same week that the European Commission "got ahead" and declared war on fake news, presenting the first draft of the Code of Conduct. The boss of the social network prefers a less drastic approach than erasing (unless they are considered hate messages that encourage violence) by skirting them so that they do not spread. To this end, it is believed that empowering users to flag misleading content can be effective in helping testers to act.
The European Commission has brought together representatives of online platforms, advertising industry players and social networking leaders to sign the Code of Conduct. The document is supported by an independent network of fact-finding, adding measures that stimulate the quality of journalism, supported by several measures to combat fake news.
The diploma is supported by five pillars, based on penalizing advertising revenues allocated to pages with false news; transparency in the distinction between normal advertising of goods and political ends; the introduction of tools that do not confuse new services with false accounts; the stimulus to access different views of the same news; and finally, the introduction of new tools to monitor and act against fake news.
The European Commission anticipates the first implementation of the measures by the end of 2018, which will be published in 2019. The next year will be a "closed marking" of the European Commission to the "partners" of the agreement, because if they do not offer satisfactory results will be introduced additional measures, including of a legislative nature.
Editorial Note: By the end of the year the SAPO TEK team will address the main themes of 2018 and the technologies that marked the year.