Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka, a think tank within the Ministry of Defense, convened a half-day symposium on Managing Fake News last week, at which I was asked to speak. This subject is outside the remit of the ICT Agency. It is broadly within the interest area of LIRNEasia, which has ongoing work on hate speech.
I never use the term popularized by the current President of the United States without enclosing the words in quotation marks. Newspapers were purveying fantastical stories for more than a century (today these stories would be described as “click bait”). The difference now is that the velocity and reach of disinformation and misinformation has been vastly increased through the new media.
Since I was asked to speak on solutions, I focused on two cases where neighboring governments had sought to penalize, and thus stanch, “fake news.” Both failed.
In the course of analyzing the policies, I also committed the offense of propagating “fake news” as defined by the government of Malaysia. The Malaysian government asserts extra-territorial jurisdiction in this regard, so I was somewhat concerned about a group of commandos landing in Colombo to take me to trial in Kuala Lumpur. Luckily, the new government has announced it will abolish the law forthwith.