The 6th International Humanitarian Forum kicked off its work sessions in Baku under the title of Creating a New World and New Human Beings: Creativity and Human Development", bringing together more than 580 delegates from 86 countries and 24 international organizations.
Within the framework of the Forum, a work session on "The Policy of Misinformation: A threat to Stability in the Modern World", organized by AZERTAC, began on Friday with presentations being made on the serious consequences of misinformation.
The session was held with the participation of officials and representatives of local and foreign mass media, international and regional media organizations, and renowned experts.
The second part of the session, has been co-moderated by Vugar Seyidov, Special Envoy of AZERTAC in Germany and Secretary-General of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA), and Mikhail Gousman, deputy Director-General of the Russian agency TASS, Vice-President of the Council of the World Congress of Press agencies.
Laure Sleiman, Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA) Director, Aslan Aslanov, chairman of the Board of Directors of AZERTAC, Frid Ayyar, the Secretary General of the Federation of Arab News agencies, Sergey Mikhailov, the Director General of the Russian news agency TASS, and representatives of other media outlets, delivered relevant speeches during the second session.
The NNA Director delivered a speech in which she said the following:
I would like to begin by thanking AZERTAC, who invited me to speak in this conference on the theme of "Misinformation Policy: A Threat to Stability in the Modern World". I accepted this invitation with great pleasure, for several reasons:
Firstly, in my capacity as the Director of the National News Agency in Lebanon, I have the feeling of belonging -- like all the countries of the world -- to this Forum which carries a humanitarian dimension.
The relationship between a group of countries is at the core of our concerns, especially in terms of credibility, accuracy, and objectivity of information that establish stability in the modern world.
In fact, the public life and political activities are currently being tarnished by increasingly pervasive acts of misinformation, particularly through the internet. Many media outlets try to mislead the public opinion by twisting facts and disseminating "fake news".
The term "fake news" or "false news" has been used in the media for some years to refer to unsubstantiated, false or concocted information. This is commonly referred to as "misinformation.
Misinformation has always existed. This is not a new concept. Informing the public with erroneous or clearly oriented information has already been used during the wars in order to manipulate the enemy, but also populations, as had been the case during the Gulf and Vietnam wars.
This concept developed more and more with the emergence of mass communication in the nineteenth century, and with the development of the media. Every individual is able today, via his Smartphone or his computer, to communicate and publish any piece of information, whether true or false.
Death threats and hatred incitement are also being orchestrated by internet users against politicians or influential stars.
Fake News is a real social scourge and its dangers should not be taken lightly. And here a question arises: Is false news also a threat to modern democracies?
The American election campaign of 2016 was particularly affected by this phenomenon. Hillary Clinton, a Democratic Party candidate, was accused of wanting to repeal the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which authorizes American citizens to possess weapons. However, the politician had said a few months earlier that she only wanted to ensure better control over the possession of arms, but in no way abolished the second Amendment.
The information was massively disseminated on social networks during the election campaign. So Hillary Clinton lost a number of supporters, who had refused such constitutional amendment.
Another example of "Fake News" during this presidential campaign was concerning the pope back then. An American website, WTOE 5 News, had released information claiming that the pope was supporting Republican candidate Donald Trump, the current president of the United States. The Pope was then forced to refute said information, which caused a huge impact on social networks and mainly on Facebook, affecting more than 900,000 people.
It is not only in the United States that Fake News is rife during election campaigns. France is not an exception since it was also the scene of false information relayed during the presidential campaign of 2017, during the second round between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
In the midst of the traditional televised debate between the last two presidential candidates, Marine Le Pen claimed that the founder of the "En Marche" party had a bank account overseas in the Bahamas. The information turned out to be false. Emmanuel Macron decided to file a complaint. However, social networks shared this "Fake News" without checking the authenticity of the facts, and the candidate's reputation was tainted for a few days.
Indeed, anyone equipped with a computer and an Internet connection can connect to Youtube and post an online video without specifying its true identity.
The European Commissioner for Economy and the Digital Society, Maria Gabriel, has set up a high-level group of experts to combat the publication of false news and misinformation. This group met for the first time on January 15, 2018. It is made up of representatives of social media, citizens, journalists, and civil society organizations.
The aim of the group is to develop a satisfactory strategy for the European Union in order to identify 'Fake News', so that they can then find the right measures against misinformation. Experts will also be called upon to advise the European Union and to propose solutions.
And despite this fact, the European Union has not introduced any provision for legal measures against 'Fake News'.
Fake News can be seen as a threat to democracy. Freedom of expression key when it comes to democracy, but the risk is that it is being used for dishonest and personal purposes. The impact of false information cannot be underestimated because if it is shared on a large scale, it may seem plausible and credible in the eyes of many people. This can lead to anti-democratic behavior.
The phenomenon of 'Fake News' is a very complex social phenomenon, and not just a problem for democracy as we have seen.
It is then relevant to ask whether democracy itself would not have prompted misinformation by relentlessly advocating freedom of expression.
The best way to disarm agents of misinformation is to know and expose their methods. This gives us the ability to point out exactly what they are doing in detail at the time they are trying to do it. Revealing a tactic of misinformation when used completely discredits the person who uses it. This reveals their dishonest, malicious and weak attitude for simply trying. The web trolls, in particular, do not know how to react when their processes are defeated. They usually retreat and flee the debate.
Finally, I wish this forum success issuing practical and legal recommendations for dealing with misinformation.
Objective Information is key for third world countries in the face of misleading propaganda that would dominate their resources and their future.
I seize this historic opportunity to thank Azerbaijan President, Government, and people for the warm welcome of this forum.
I wish Azerbaijan a future marked with progress, peace, and prosperity.
Source: National News Agency