• Arab News’ Ross Anderson said disinformation is spread using online platforms and social media sites, and the greatest concern is that young people often are not able to identify it
  • Staurt Lau, Europe correspondent for the SCMP, pointed out that the flood of disinformation and rumors spread on social media by political campaigners is causing damage

RIYADH: Fake news poses a serious threat to the media industry’s values of honesty, truth and accountability, senior journalists agreed at the Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh on Tuesday.

During a panel discussion titled “The War Against Fake News,” the participants said that news organizations have a responsibility to challenge and expose false stories. There is also a need, they noted, to better teach the public, young people in particular, the media skills they need to counter the spread of disinformation.

“It is a lie and a deliberate attempt to mislead people,” Arab News Associate Editor Ross Anderson said of fake news during the session.

Disinformation is spread using online platforms and social media sites, he added, and the greatest concern about fake news is that young people often are not able to identify it. As a result, he continued, the lies are shared across social media, with everyone quoting each other without checking facts or knowing the truth.

Rainer Hermann, the Middle East editor of Deutsche Welle, echoed these sentiments and noted that fake news comes with a heavy cost to newsrooms. There is a need, he said, to debunk and delete fake news and to halt the proliferation of deliberate disinformation being spread through online news platforms and social media sites. One way to help achieve this is by emphasizing the importance of dialogue in society, he added, and another is education.

“We need to talk to each other to discuss things and find the truth instead of spreading disinformation,” he said. “Schools need to teach media skills to counter the spread of fake news.”

Hermann added that part of the problem is that many people do not question what is fake and what is real news, or attempt to find out the truth behind what they read and share online. He also singled out right-wing politicians for the role they play in spreading fake news.

Staurt Lau, Europe correspondent for the South China Morning Post, pointed out that the flood of disinformation and rumors spread on social media by political campaigners is causing damage. There are many who suggest that fake news is a matter of degree or how big the lies are, he said, but he believes it is a matter of concern. Traditional news media, print and broadcast, are not doing enough to support quality journalism and rid the profession of unethical practices, he added.

The session was moderated by author and journalist Roger Harrison, who has worked with Arab News for almost 20 years.