Thomas Kent: "Quality of fake news today is higher than ever"

Thomas Kent: "Quality of fake news today is higher than ever"

One of the panel discussions of the second day of the 6th News Agencies World Congress in Sofia was dedicated to the issue of fake news. Speech of the associate professor of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, Thomas Kent, was one of the key events of the discussion. In an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza, he stressed that society should support the media's fight against fake news.

- You began your speech by saying that society's support is very important, because without it, all efforts of the media are worthless. What exactly should society do to support the fight against fake news?

- First of all, society should understand that this is a really serious problem. What society can do really depends on education system - schools and universities must tell that there is fake information about the world and that everyone must be vigilant. When we gather at the conference of journalists, everyone talks about this topic and everyone acknowledges that this is a problem - but people from the streets often don’t understand how serious situation is. Many people think that by reading newspapers and social networks, they learn what's right and what's wrong.

The things is that quality of lies today is higher than ever, especially when it comes to new type of fake videos. It's very difficult for an ordinary person to determine what's right and what's wrong, and that's why it's necessary for society to be vigilant, for schools to teach how to distinguish truth from lies. I think it's also a duty of political parties, government officials and NGOs. 

If I were a head of news organization, I would create a post for someone that deals with fake information. There must be reporters who deal with these issues all the time, because this is the biggest problem of our time.

- Falsification of history was mentioned during today's discussion. It's a very important issue for Russia, because right now we see glorification of the fascism and collaborators, we see how these people are presented as national heroes. How can we deal with this problem?

- It's also our problem: the future will follow one path, but our past is constantly changing. I think that the best approach is active dialogue about the past at scientific conferences, at schools and universities. it will help to create a better understanding of history, because when there's only one official line, there is a risk that it won't correspond to the facts. Active discussion helps to fight against falsification of history.

- You mentioned a very interesting idea of adding special people who will deal with fake news to the news departments. Can you tell more details about your vision of their work?

- Such department would have a lot of work. First of all, they'll have to learn techniques of fake information. There are organizations, political parties and entire countries that spread false information. There's also psychological element: people believe false information, because it often matches their usual beliefs. These are different topics, but they're all connected. I think that such department will have enough work for an entire team of correspondents.