Fake news has become a common and controversial topic in UK politics, often blamed on Russian spy agencies and foreign powers trying to subvert Western democracies – but, in reality, it’s more likely to be generated by the power of the internet to spread information without quality control or checks. However, a lot of fake news comes from the heart of Westminster itself.
Last week, there was a controversial story about MPs voting against animal welfare – suggesting that animals are not sentient, and cannot feel pain. Traditional media platforms such as the Independent and the Evening Standard ran this story. Politicians savaged fellow MPs for their votes and huge petitions were started in opposition to this decision. There was only was problem – the story wasn’t strictly speaking true.
I have written to your paper times stressing the importance of animal welfare issues. A quick glance at this story made me uneasy: what would be the actual legal impact of a vote contained within the EU Withdrawal Bill? As a result, millions of people were unwittingly exposed to little more than political propaganda. When it turned out that the story was in fact the very definition of ‘fake news’, one story being portrayed as something else, I wasn’t surprised.
We live in an age of fake news and it has become a part of everyday life in this digital age. We must be more careful than ever to scrutinise and verify for ourselves what we read both in the media and online. I try to read both left-wing and right-wing news sources, national and regional, so that I’m able to get a feel for what’s fact and what’s opinion – and to understand the opinions of those who think differently to me.
Jonathan Arnott MEP