Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 12, 2019
Vigilance the best protection from plague of fake news
Canadians will be voting in federal elections in four months. Many have already made up their minds. Regardless, attempts will be made to shift voters’ perceptions. We know this is coming and we need to prepare for it.
Facebook admitted in 2017 that Russian operatives bought political advertising on its social media site intent on disrupting the U.S. elections the previous fall. U.S. citizens (let’s face it: all of us) were subjected to fake news, absurd memes and all manner of slander in a Moscow-driven attempt to affect the vote.
It didn’t end there. Facebook closed down hundreds of fake Facebook accounts, at least one of which had 3.6 million users, set up to help Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Facebook also shut down hundreds of accounts linked to an Israeli political consulting firm, Archimedes Group, whose primary goal is to win campaigns in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
In Canada, we can expect the same. An alleged email made the rounds recently purporting to be from a People’s Party of Canada organizer bizarrely suggesting that non-white Canadians who join Maxime Bernier’s anti-immigrant, Islamophobic party should be displayed prominently but never consulted about policy because “they are all liberals anyway.”
Similarly, the U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was featured in a video in which she was made to look like she was slurring her speech. U.S. President Donald Trump was among those who tweeted the fake video. In this case, Facebook refused to take the video down, claiming it is not its responsibility to censor.
On Monday, Facebook Canada announced that anyone wishing to buy political ads on its platform will need approval. The authorization process involves several steps to confirm the group buying the ad is real and based in Canada. Starting June 30, political ads appearing on Facebook will show who bought the ad and will allow social media users to view information about the ad’s reach.
The Pelosi video, however, is not considered advertising and would have been allowed on the site.
In that case, Facebook is actually correct. Free speech is free speech is free speech. As disgusting as the video is — it was created by slowing down an actual clip of Pelosi speaking and then altering the pitch of her voice to mask the manipulation — it does not qualify as hate speech. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)