The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, has warned of the dangers of ‘fake news’ and urged journalists to expose falsehood in this digital age of ‘democratic journalism’.
He said the potential for the spread of misinformation by way of instant electronic communications was brought home by Facebook’s and Google’s decision to restrict advertising during the course of the current referendum debate on whether the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution should be repealed or not.
“Fake news spreads arrogance and hatred; it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonising them and fomenting conflict,” said the clergyman.
“The current referendum debate, including the decisions this week by Google and Facebook to shut down digital advertising regarding the referendum, has generated its fair share of accusations and counter accusations of fake news.
“Pope Francis tells us that we can recognise the truth of statements from their fruits - whether they provoke arguments and cause division or promote informed mature dialogue and discussion with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones. He tells us: ‘Informing others means forming others; it means touching peoples’ lives’.”
The Archbishop said journalism should be “truthful, opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines” and that journalists should be “protectors of news”.
“Our world is rich in communications resources and our era is often described as the age of ‘democratic journalism’. The way we express ourselves has changed radically and we can now instantly share our ideas on a multiplicity of platforms.”