Uphill task for East StratCom

Experts question whether fact-checking efforts by governments and publishers make an impact on online readers, as fake reports get more views than verified ones. Professor of media studies Mark Deuze says most people do not care about where their new
Experts question whether fact-checking efforts by governments and publishers make an impact on online readers, as fake reports get more views than verified ones. Professor of media studies Mark Deuze says most people do not care about where their news comes from.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Some major issues are faced by East StratCom in fighting fake news:

INUNDATED

Its list of 2,500 fake reports refuted is small compared with the number of false reports appearing daily. Catching every fake news story is nearly impossible, and the original fake reports get a lot more viewers than the team's myth-busting efforts.

UNDERSTAFFED

Policymakers across Europe say a lack of tech specialists is one of their biggest problems. Germany recently passed a cyber-security law that calls for a rapid response team to combat hacking attacks.

Officials acknowledge that they need three teams, if they could only find people to staff them.

UNDERFUNDED

European Union officials estimate that Russia spends US$1 billion (S$1.42 billion) on state media outlets and has an unknown budget for troll factories, which flood social media with anti-Western diatribes, said the Guardian.

In contrast, the EU unit relies mostly on member states and a modest slice of the EU's communications budget for funding.

The task force appealed last year for extra resources.

Some money was made available for the next six months by shuffling funds within the budget of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

A proposal to grantEEAS an extra €800,000 (S$1.2 million) for East StratCom was rejected in the European Parliament last year.

APATHY

Experts question whether fact-checking efforts by governments and publishers have a meaningful effect. "Most people just don't care about where their news comes from," said professor of media studies Mark Deuze of the University of Amsterdam.

Populist parties and distrust of traditional news media outlets have been growing in Europe. They spurred an explosion of fake or misleading news, aimed at promoting political views or undermining others' credibility.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Uphill task for East StratCom'. Print Edition | Subscribe