The establishment of a National Security Communications Unit to tackle the threat of “fake news” spread by hostile state actors is a welcome step by Government, says the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
However, the roots and causes of ‘fake news’ are complex and the new unit must protect free speech as well as defend our democracy. In a comment in PR Week, the Head of Government Communications also promised a new unit within the Cabinet Office to tackle “disinformation and reclaim a fact-based public debate.”
Stuart Bruce FCIPR, Chair of the Policy and Campaigns Committee states:
“Targeted misinformation and propaganda has long been a part of modern warfare and the growth of technology and social media has created a new vulnerability which is potentially doing great damage to public trust. The routes available to tackle this issue range from more effective regulation of social media platforms to tackling and eliminating the threats posed by hostile state actors. The solution is going to take many forms and it is critical that no compromises are made in terms of free speech, which is the central value of our democratic institutions.
It is an illustration of the shifting balance in threats that, less than a year ago, the Conservative election manifesto was silent on this issue, despite containing many promises on cyber security. Government must be clear with the public about the complex and ambiguous nature of this challenge.”