Monday, September 13, 2021

Policies To Eradicate Fake News in Korea


What are the three disasters facing the people on Earth in this new century? Perhaps it's climate change, coronavirus, and fake news. Recently, people around the world have experienced these three disasters. A university professor in the communication department gives the readers in the Eyes of the Believer column of the Catholic Times his ideas on the subject. 

All of these disasters are the natural consequences of our actions. In particular, digital technological progress has given us a media revolution, but it has also brought us fake news. Humans have long witnessed how fake news destroys world peace and democracy. (this fake news is often not unintentionally misreported facts, but intentionally manipulated false information)


The origin of the overflowing fake news is mainly digital media. Currently, about 75% of the 9,400 registered Internet media applications handled annually by the Press Arbitration Committee, are Internet media. Single-person media such as YouTube, which conveys opinions such as speculation and confirmation bias as if they were true, are more of a problem.


Meanwhile, traditional media such as newspapers and broadcasting are also responding to the media ecosystem—often deviating from journalistic rules and causing exaggeration, distortion, and manipulation due to profitability and politics.


Koreans have little confidence in the media. For example, just looking at the results of last year's media reliability survey of 40 countries by the Reuters Journalism Research Institute in the UK, Korea is at the bottom.

This reality is also in line with the results of a public opinion poll on the revision of the Media Arbitration Act. The result is that 60~70% of the survey subjects are in favor of the ruling party's amendment to the Media Arbitration Act—a different result from the situation that many media and legal officials hold. 


It shows that the general public has a great sense of distrust and rejection of fake news and the media in general. Media experts estimate that the number of daily news stories in Korea is between 60,000 and 70,000. Much of this news is fake news that goes through the production process of plagiarism and manipulation, omitting proper coverage and fact-checking. Is this not the reason we hear the sarcastic remark of 'news reincarnation'? 


First of all, there are legislative regulations on countermeasures against fake news disasters. So far, 18 countries have introduced various media regulations despite controversy over being "anti-democratic."

In Korea, the amendment to the Press Arbitration Act submitted by the ruling party heated up the political situation throughout the summer. In the end, the National Assembly's process was delayed as the ruling and opposition parties compromised to submit it to the plenary session on Sept. 27. However, due to the wide difference in opinions between the ruling and opposition parties, the revision is likely to eventually be handled by the ruling party alone or postponed. 

Looking at the public's distrust and rejection of the media alone, the purpose of revising the Media Arbitration Act seems reasonable. However, at least two points should be pointed out.

First of all, some controversial provisions need to be addressed. These have been controversial at home and abroad because of the possibility of restricting freedom of expression and information, especially those pointed out by the UN Human Rights Office. The law already has 56 laws and regulations to crack down on fake news, from the Criminal Act on defamation to the Telecommunications Act. 


An ambiguous clause: "requirements for presuming intentional or gross negligence," and a clause that raised concerns that the media could be censored and punitively charged five times the previous amount for damages were problems. It is also absurd that one-person media, which is said to be a hotbed of fake news, was excluded from the regulation.


Second, as a universal countermeasure against fake news, it is essential to ▲ support and strengthen the fact-checking system of media companies ▲ implement media literacy (education to awaken media literacy) for all citizens in addition to legal regulations. However, in Korea, the focus is mainly on legal regulations. Support policies are few or being implemented very slowly. We should not focus only on legislation in the revision of the Media Arbitration Act expecting approval ratings of opinion polls but work together to support the public and the media with policies.


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