In Brief

Facebook to help Italy prevent fake news ahead of 2018 election

Ruling party and opposition urge web giants to help stop spread of false information and propaganda

Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is calling on international observers to help prevent “fake news” in the run-up to the country’s 2018 general election.

Party leader Luigi Di Maio made the plea yesterday following allegations by the ruling Democratic Party (PD) that 5-Star supporters were using interlinked internet accounts to spread misinformation and smear the center-left government, says Reuters.

Di Maio, whose party is leading the polls, wrote in a Facebook message: “The problem of fake news exists and we think it is necessary to have the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] monitor news and political debate during the election campaign.” 

 PD leader Matteo Renzi is also calling for outside help to police the internet. In an interview last week, reported by The New York Times, Renzi said: “We ask the social networks, and especially Facebook, to help us have a clean electoral campaign. The quality of the democracy in Italy today depends on a response to these issues.”

Facebook plans to dispatch an Italian “task force” of fact-checkers to address the fake news problem before the elections, in May, the newspaper says.

The social media is also teaming up with the Italian government and other web giants to teach students across 8,000 high schools across the country how to spot fake news ahead of the vote.

Chamber of Deputies president Laura Boldrini told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that it was important to make sure students are able to “defend themselves from lies”.

“The challenge is for kids to become hoax hunters, web detectives, capable of always understanding whether a news report is true or false,” she said.

Students are taught to refrain from sharing unconfirmed stories; to use search engines to check news; and to demand to know the original source of a report. The programme was rolled out at the beginning of November. 

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