Pope's 2018 Communications Day message focuses on 'fake news'


World Communications Day takes place on Sunday 13 May.

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Image courtesy of www.catholicbishops.ie


Pope Francis has used his annual World Day of Communications message to highlight the impact that fake news is having on our society and the importance of focusing on the ‘issue of truth’, a topic previously addressed in a World Communications Day message by Pope Paul VI.

The pontiff believes that fake news is thriving in today’s world thanks to its ability to ‘mimic’ real news and capture people’s attention.

The effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news...it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration.

Pope Francis also warns of the dangers of ‘disinformation’ which is exacerbated by the lack of engagement with people who hold differing views.

“The difficulty...eliminating fake news is due also to the fact that many people interact in homogeneous digital environments impervious to differing perspectives and opinions. Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas.“

'First fake news'

While the pontiff notes that ‘first fake news’ was created by the ‘crafty serpent’ in the Book of Genesis, the proliferation of media outlets and social media networks in recent times has added to the phenomenon.

The 21st century has witnessed the rise of new forms of social media communication. According to Hootesuite, over half of the world's population now has internet, with the majority of these also 'social media' users.

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Image courtesy of www.hootesuite.com


Pope Francis, who himself has millions of followers on his Instagram and Twitter social media platforms, lauded the efforts of ‘...educational programmes aimed at helping people to interpret and assess information provided by the media, and teaching them to take an active part in unmasking falsehoods, rather than unwittingly contributing to the spread of disinformation’.

He went on to present ‘truth’ as the antidote to ‘virus of falsehood’ and fake news.

“The truth is not just bringing to light things that are concealed...Truth...carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust...Truth is something you can lean on, so as not to fall.”

What can be done to combat the rise of fake news?

Pope Francis is clear. He encourages listening to those of other viewpoints and engaging in a sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge.

To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth...flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another.”

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Image courtesy of www.hootesuite.com


The World Day of Communications message concludes by highlighting the ‘weighty responsibility’ on the shoulders of journalists. Pope Francis warns against giving-in to the temptation of ‘scoops’ and to keep ‘persons’ at the heart of the information rather than the potential audience impact.

He concludes by calling on everyone to engage in a ‘journalism of peace’ which seeks a ‘deeper understanding’ of issues and their ‘underlying causes’.

The message was published on 24 January, the feast day of St Francis de Sales who is the patron Saint of journalists. 

 

    • Click here to read the full message.