Culture Secretary calls for greater public awareness of fake news in propaganda war

There needs to be an improvement in people's awareness of the threat posed by fake news, according to Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright.

To win the information war on social media against Russia, Wright said, "you need… the public also to be more sceptical about what they read and see. Part of this is about raising public awareness that what they might be seeing might be coming from Russia."

His remarks were made in a recent appearance before the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee, in the wake of the government’s response to the committee’s interim report on disinformation and fake news last month.

Wright added: "People need to have their awareness raised that the Russians are up to this kind of behaviour… Not just the Russians, of course, but, in the context of the Skripal poisonings, we are in no doubt not only as to the responsibility for the acts themselves, but also that the Russians have put about false narratives on what has happened – some 30 or 40 of them, all false – and that they have done that deliberately in order to confuse people."

The Culture Secretary commented that while "we can, of course, try to detect those false narratives, to identify them" there is a need for "the public to be conscious of the risk that some of the things they read are not true, and not just accidentally not true, but deliberately not true."

A "public-education response" is needed, according to Wright, as by taking a more sceptical approach to what they read and hear and where it might come from, the public can help deal with the threat of fake news.

His comments echo the government’s view, outlined in its response to the committee’s recent report, in which it states: "As part of our ongoing education and awareness-raising work, we will consider options to improve critical thinking skills and resilience to disinformation in the context of political engagement."

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