Fake News & Disinformation — A New and Suspicious Definition from the UK Government

“There is a wonderful book that you might read… And the title of it is from a quote from Winston Churchill: ‘In time of war, the truth is so precious, it must be attended by a bodyguard of lies.’”

U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz (October 3 1986)

“[The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Fifth Report is] an ill-informed, amateurish attempt to establish that there should be an official version of news… And that we should all believe that version without question. I think the report and response are silly attempts to restore popular faith in the BBC, the MSM and UK government information, but I think it is too late for that.”

Paul Feeney  — Independent researcher in politics and terrorism(Email to Intel Today – October 26 2018)

Over the past few years there’s been a lot of talk in the media about “Fake News” and “Disinformation”. But what is “Disinformation” exactly? How is it defined? Well, the UK government has just provided its own definition. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Disinformation is traditionally defined as “false information that is given to people in order to make them believe something false or to hide the truth.”

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published its Fifth Report of Session 2017–19, Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Report (HC 363) on 29 July 2018.

The Government’s response was received on October 9 2018 and is appended to this report.

The response to the first recommendation is astonishing. The Government suggests a new and highly dubious definition of Disinformation.

Recommendation 1

The term ‘fake news’ is bandied around with no clear idea of what it means, or agreed definition.

The term has taken on a variety of meanings, including a description of any statement that is not liked or agreed with by the reader.

We recommend that the Government rejects the term ‘fake news’, and instead puts forward an agreed definition of the words ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’.

With such a shared definition, and clear guidelines for companies, organisations, and the Government to follow, there will be a shared consistency of meaning across the platforms, which can be used as the basis of regulation and enforcement.

Government response

We agree that ‘fake news’ is a poorly-defined and misleading term that conflates a variety of false information, from genuine error through to foreign interference in democratic processes.

Over the past several months during its work on this issue the Government has sought to move away from ‘fake news’ and instead has sought to address ‘disinformation’ and wider online manipulation.

In our work we have defined disinformation as the deliberate creation and sharing of false and/or manipulated information that is intended to deceive and mislead audiences, either for the purposes of causing harm, or for political, personal or financial gain.

‘Misinformation’ refers to the inadvertent sharing of false information.

Analysis

I believe that it is wrong to restrict the usual definition by adding the following conditions:

“either for the purposes of causing harm, or for political, personal or financial gain”

If a friend is knowingly spreading false information for the purpose of making me and my readers feel good, it is still disinformation.

The purpose is simply irrelevant. A Noble Lie may be — more or less — noble, but it is still a lie.

If the BBC is publishing nonsense about Russian interference in the UK democratic processes, that is disinformation; whatever the purpose. And I see no reason to exclude “National Security”.

PS: By the way… In their response to recommendation 41, the UK government states: “We want to reiterate, however, that the Government has not seen evidence of successful use of disinformation by foreign actors, including Russia, to influence UK democratic processes.”

A Brief History of Disinformation

REFERENCES

Disinformation — Wikipedia

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Fake News — A New and Suspicious Definition from the UK Government

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