The rising phenomenon of so-called ‘fake news’ and online misinformation has become a global political issue in recent times. We believe that the complex and multi-factor nature of the phenomenon – in terms of its causes and impact – make one-size-fits-all regulatory solutions inappropriate. Rather, as our just-filed response to the European Commission public consultation on ‘Fake News and Online Disinformation’ argues, the true solutions lie in greater investment in media literacy, trust, and a multi-stakeholder approach.
As a mission-driven organisation promoting openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Web, online misinformation cuts to the heart of our vision. Our consultation response – and broader engagement around this issue with lawmakers around the globe – thus seeks to provide an accurate problem definition and a series of balanced actionable insights to mitigate against online misinformation.
In any conversation around political and social issues, proper framing is essential. To that end, we advise European lawmakers to avoid sweeping terms such as ‘fake news’ and instead adopt a more nuanced definition that captures the design intent, legality, and purposeful nature of misinformation content on the Web.
Linked to this, to make meaningful progress against the spread of misinformation online it is necessary to understand that this is a constantly evolving threat, which manifests in different ways, and is the result of a range of causes. From interaction with a broad variety of stakeholders across the Internet community, we have identified a broad mix of technological, economic, literary, and psychological factors which can contribute to the phenomenon
The fluid and interdependent nature of these contributory factors mean counter-actions must be targeted, proportionate, and multi-stakeholder in nature. In that context, we have used the consultation response to advise against sweeping one-size-fits-all platform regulation and government regulation of legal speech, and instead stress the importance of media literacy education, trust-building exercises, and continuous dialogue between all stakeholders involved.
As the European Union considers measures to tackle online misinformation, we will continue to provide thought-leadership to keep the Internet healthy and empowering for its users and creators. Our ongoing Mozilla Information Trust Initiative (MITI) and our leadership in developing the final report of the European Commission’s High-level Expert Group on Fake News and Online Misinformation (HLEG) are just two examples of how we seek to support an open and thriving online news ecosystem. And of course, we’ll continue to build products like Pocket and build out the Coral Project, that help online news empower democratic societies.
Read our full consultation submission here, and stay tuned for updates on our work on this through the European Commission’s HLEG and around the world.