Plaid AM calls for more action to tackle fake news

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In her short debate yesterday, Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) called for better education around the dangers of “fake news” from politically-biased and unattributed online sources.

Bethan cited two examples, one from the left and one from the right. The former example was a photo of the 1969 Woodstock Festival being mislabelled as being a protest by Native Americans against an oil pipeline. The latter was an anti-immigration quote falsely attributed to former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, by a right-wing US congressman.

“So, there is a need to ascertain who is genuine and a real influencer and/or a journalist and who is not. We also have to start really calling out the standards of tabloids’ news sources and those with a specific political allegiance. When there is a falsehood, it should be up to us as politicians, regardless of our position on the political spectrum, to call it out for the good of democracy.”
– Bethan Sayed AM

As local news was often more trusted than social media, Bethan called for additional support for the hyperlocal news sector. She also called for watchdogs and regulatory bodies to provide better industry accreditation to help people “separate real journalists and decent political commentators from influencers who peddle a fantasy of lies”.

In reply, the Culture Minister, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) said he didn’t want to repeat arguments for and against devolution of broadcasting, but accepted that there was a wider issue of political participation and citizenship.

“Many years ago, I taught in this area, and I think that we have lost that fundamental emphasis very often, namely that we don’t educate the population sufficiently on how to read the mass media. The emphasis is not in our schools or in our courses or perhaps even in places such as this place, where we discuss politics. Perhaps we don’t discuss the fact that understanding relies on the ability of the individual and any specific group that one is part of to be able to analyse what is being said.”
– Culture Minister, Dafydd Elis-Thomas

He went on to say that an active population was needed that can analyse situations intellectually and develop a curiosity so they don’t blindly believe whatever they’re told. He hoped that these skills would be embedded in the new National Curriculum.

He also expressed an interest in the Culture Committee – which Bethan Sayed chairs – possibly returning to the issue in the future.