Demystifying False News: A Discussion with Yury Mosha, Founder of the “Stop Fake News” Initiative

Photo Credit: Yury Mosha

In today’s digital landscape saturated with data, distinguishing genuine information from craftily constructed deceitful content is increasingly challenging. We conversed about the digital spread of misinformation, particularly rampant in the US, with Yury Mosha, the key figure behind the “Stop Fake News” platform.

The surge in fake news today is undeniable. What’s causing this rampant spread?

In these complex times, the line between truth and fiction often blurs. Trusted media sources sometimes fall prey to spreading false narratives. Broadly, misleading content falls into two brackets. One is deliberately created false news meant for manipulation and spread. The other is unchecked information released due to the unfamiliarity or lack of skill of digital publishers, which then passes off as fact. Nonetheless, this misinformation is seeing a growing trend.

Surprisingly, many take web content at face value. With the ease of creating and sharing content online, the problem grows. Regulatory standards for media differ globally. In the US, where misinformation and biased articles are most prolific, there’s a significant gap in controlling such content. Taking action against culprits is a tough endeavor.

What was the motivation behind the “Stop Fake News” initiative?

The primary purpose of “Stop Fake News” is to track and record websites perpetuating misinformation. Through comprehensive analysis, our specialists pinpoint platforms deliberately spreading false narratives and list them.

How do you curate the Fake News site directory on the platform?

On the main page of “Stop Fake News”, we detail 13 criteria that aid in identifying potential misinformation platforms. These criteria range from naming patterns, publication rate, ownership history, to the website’s duration. For example, if a site’s articles share a common writing tone, are released quickly, and lack editorial rigor, it’s wise to doubt its reliability.

Having a directory of deceptive platforms is invaluable. It’s akin to lists of counterfeit medicines or copied academic works. Referring to this directory helps users gauge a site’s credibility, guarding them against misinformation.

The “Stop Fake News” endeavor was launched by the Committee for Protection against Online Defamation, Discrimination, and Harassment. Could you elaborate on their activities?

The Committee was initially set up to revise US online regulations. While the US pioneered the internet, its digital regulations trail behind those in the European Union.

In the US, online platform relations fall under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996. This act states that search platforms aren’t responsible for the content they list. Basically, anyone can replicate a famous news source, register a similar domain, push false narratives, and still get indexed by search engines. Many readers don’t realize they might be consuming content from a cleverly duplicated source rather than reputable ones like The Washington Post.

Addressing these deceptions requires victims of misinformation to go to court. These trials can take years, and only post-verdict can the site’s indexing be limited. A case in point was a renowned journalist from the New York Times who found a false report about her passing. It took extensive efforts and the intervention of Google’s CEO to rectify the error.

Misinformation and cyberbullying are significant problems in the US, with some victims taking drastic measures without seeing redress. The Committee has thus been pushing for legal changes to facilitate quicker removals of misinformation from search results, avoiding lengthy and expensive court procedures. Although they’ve presented their program to Congress and received some backing, legal amendments are still pending.

However, the Committee is hopeful of reforming US fake news regulations. Post the 2024 elections, they plan to pursue this mission relentlessly. With changing times, there’s an urgent need for official intervention.

How can the public protect themselves from misinformation?

The “Stop Fake News” platform offers a detailed guide to help users spot misinformation sources on their own. Users can report suspicious sites, which the team then evaluates. If validated, the site joins the directory.