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There are solutions against "fake news", the phenomenon threatening today's society and democratic values & institutions

Date: 03/27/2018

  • Live intervention of the EC representative
  • 200 participants and 19 top-level speakers at the international conference organized by ARRP, in partnership with ICCO and "Carol I" Central University Library of Bucharest
  • Live streaming reached almost 100,000 visits

A more transparent on-line environment and better educated users and content suppliers were just some of the solutions proposed by the participants at „Fake News. An anatomy of social mystification” Conference for fighting against fake news and manipulation. The event was organized by the Romanian Public Relations Association (ARRP), in partnership with International Communication Companies Organization (ICCO) and "Carol I" Central University Library of Bucharest. Almost 200 guests and 19 opinion leaders and international experts debated the fake news phenomenon affecting societies, institutions and individuals, at the expense of the truth.

Who finances fake news?

„We need to know the funding sources (funding flows) standing behind those who publish the information in online, based on the follow the money principle”, underscored Paolo Cesarini, Head of Unit Social Media & Media Convergence with European Commission’s DG (CNECT), during a live intervention from Brussels. He referred to the recommendations made last week by the Group of Experts set up by EC, in an attempt to identify and fight against fake news phenomenon. Paolo Cesarini also stated that there is a need for a more transparent management of media institutions, of the activities which shadow the publishing of such information and ad placements on shady websites, but also a clearer policy regarding sponsored content, including political advertising".


Fake news damages economical competitivity. The solution is the authentic journalism

From a PR specialist’s point of view, fake news phenomenon became a weapon against economical competitors, thinks Jurgen Gangoly, Regional President, Europe with ICCO, stressing that PR professionals need trustworthy media partners to communicate their economical policies. „We need high-quality, credible media at the other end of the business. If media is losing trust, the business is damaged, because we are no longer able to communicate. This is why I am asking PR professionals to support traditional journalism, the authentic journalism”.

Cambridge Analytica – the magnitude indicator

Alina Bârgăoanu, Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations, SNSPA and member of the Group of Experts set by the EC, states we should start by knowing how wide this phenomenon is, especially now, following recent disclosures on Cambridge Analytica and Internet Research Agency. „I think we should start fighting against fake news by better understanding the phenomenon and its scale, including in Romanian on-line environment, which are the voices, messages and amplifying technologies”, mentioned Alina Bârgăoanu.

Moreover, the Faculty of Communication Dean thinks fake news has become a "scanty" term and recommends, as member of the European Group of Experts „to be less used, as it started to be highly politicized, throwed in the political battle and turned into an umbrella term, suitable for various phenomena”.

Fake news, a threat to democratic institutions

The cooperation between European & national authorities and the private sector in one of the short-term solutions offered by Romanian MEP Siegfried Mureşan, chief negotiator for the general budget of the European Union for 2018. In a video message shared with the participants, he mentioned that EU offered last year EUR 4.9 mln for measures aimed at fighting against fake news.

„The message is very clear: fake news threatens democratic processes and elections, but also threatens our values, which, in the end, influence public policies in various sectors", stressed Siegfried Mureşan.

A matter of national and international security, generating the „geopolitics of distrust”

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia emphasized that „fake news tries to alter people's perception of reality and negatively influence social behaviour" and today it is widely spread, „becoming a matter of national and international security”

Another approach of the misinformation and fake news phenomena was provided by Dan Dungaciu, Director of the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations “I.C. Bratianu” of the Romanian Academy and head of LACRIS (Informational Warfare Analysis and Strategic Communication Laboratory). He talked about the „geopolitics of distrust” we, as Westerners, are exposed to: „Us, the Westerners, are used to being suspicious, we start questioning EU, the European institutions, our own institution, the democracy and these already existing cracks (…) make external influence more effective”. Based on these suspicions is shaped the „geopolitics of distrust”, facilitating manipulation. „A classic war is no longer needed, as the distrusting spaces are prone to confruntation”, states Dungaciu.

Education as solution for anti-manipulation „vaccination”

Ioana Avădani, Director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, thinks the solution may come, however, from each and everyone of us: „developing the critical thinking”. „While we work with people, the only winning option is to make them self-sustaining from an informational perspective. If we were to look at what is truly functional in this anti-manipulation „vaccination”, I think that is education”, concluded Ioana Avădani.

Conference Speakers were: Jürgen Gangoly (Regional President for Europe ICCO – International Communications Consultancy Organization), Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia (Apostolic Nuncio in Romania), Paolo Cesarini (Head of Unit Social Media & Media Convergence, Directorate General Communications, Networks, Content & Technology - European Commission), Maxim BEHAR (former President of ICCO), Alina Bârgăoanu (member of the EC Expert Group to fight against fake news and Dean of the Communication and Public Relations Faculty, SNSPA), Dan Dungaciu (Director of the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations “I.C. Bratianu” of the Romanian Academy and head of LACRIS (Informational Warfare Analysis and Strategic Communication Laboratory), Ioana Avădani, Director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, Mircea Toma (President of Active Watch), Toma Cîmpeanu (Director, National Association for Information Systems Security – ANSSI), Alex Bălan (Chief Security Researcher Bitdefender), Cristian China-Birta (journalist and blogger), Tudor Muşat (journalist), Ovidiu Nahoi (Editor-In-Chief RFI), George Bara (Chief Strategy Officer Zetta Cloud), Mihai Voicu (Partner ONV LAW), Daniel Dinu (the Q Agency), Ioana Teodorescu (PR Manager, Regina Maria Social Innovation Foundation), Ana-Maria Diceanu (crisis communication expert), Sigfriend Mureșan (MEP).

ARRP moderators were Gabriel Pâslaru (President), Camelia Spătaru (Vice-President), Cornel Cojocaru (senior expert NBR, member of ARRP Honorary Jury), Cătălin Hosu (Vice-President).

Partners: Agerpres, Babylon Consult, BDR Associates, Capital Estate, Comm360, Kaufland, Media Trust, Perfect Ltd, Privesc.Eu and Trendy Sound.


Fighting „fake news” in communication, mission of ARRP

The „Fake News. An anatomy of social mystification” Conference is the first out of a series of actions to be implemented by ARRP throughout 2018, in support of the fight against this growing phenomenon, and properly informing citizens, according to the right to information proclaimed by Article no 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in favour of the truth.

The Eurobarometer on March 12 showed that 83% of the European citizens consider fake news phenomenon as a threat to democracy, European institutions and today’s society.

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