TAIPEI (CNA) — The fight against fake news or disinformation is a global issue that requires a comprehensive approach and closer links between governments and civil society, a visiting French official and academic said on May 14.
Sébastien Soriano, chairman of Arcep, the French national regulatory authority for telecoms and posts, told Taiwan media during a roundtable that the fight against disinformation is an issue faced by democracies around the world, but so far, no silver bullet has been found.
Soriano noted that France has passed laws as part of its effort to crack down on the spread of false information. “But it is too early to evaluate (the effectiveness of the laws).” In November 2018, the French National Assembly passed two pieces of legislation. These give judges the power to order the removal of fake news online and direct Internet firms of a certain size to disclose details about their advertisers.
However, the passage of the laws caused controversy in France and Antonio Casilli, a French sociologist specialized in Internet privacy and digital labor, who came with Soriano to Taiwan, has been a vocal critic.
“The passed laws point toward simply banning content or in some cases even putting people in jail or giving fines. But they do not recognize the economic incentive of people who produce such news, this is the major problem,” he said during the same roundtable.
As a result, the laws that are now being put in place are problematic in terms of freedom of expression and will have a negative effect instead of solving the real problem, he noted.
The French laws do not offer a good example from which others should learn, Soriano said, adding that a more comprehensive approach is needed to tackle fake news.
That means closer cooperation between the government, local businesses, and civil society, he noted.
During a visit to Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) early Tuesday, Soriano said he learned that the authorities are working closely with instant messaging app Line in their fight against fake news. The NCC is the independent statutory agency responsible for regulating the communications and information industry.
“This kind of initiative could be promising. It won’t solve all the problems but certainly it is part of the solution,” he noted.
Soriano said it is not the job of the government to determine which piece of information is fake, but rather to offer a range of solutions, such as the cooperation with Line, and to ask social media platforms, where fake news is mainly circulated, to cooperate in the fight against disinformation.
It is also important that these efforts are undertaken while making sure the freedom of expression is protected, he stressed.
Meanwhile, Casilli reiterated that a democratic society that allows every voice to be heard is the solution to all problems.
As part of their Asian tour, Soriano and Casilli are in Taiwan for a brief two-day stay from Monday to Tuesday to promote exchange between Taiwan and France in the area of digital policies, competition and telecoms regulation.
By Joseph Yeh