COMMENT: Government must act to stop double standards

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New technology has transformed the media – and the delivery of news.

Thirty-five years ago, it took days for reports to reach Britain about developments in the Falklands conflict.

Today news is not only instantaneous, even from the world’s most inhospitable hotspots, but it is shaped by the public’s response on social media.

As the war correspondent Martin Bell notes in his new book: ‘The technology has run ahead of us; it is not our servant but our master. The lie is halfway round the world before truth has got its boots on.’

Yet, while separating fact from fiction is not helped by those politicians who dismiss any personal criticism, however legitimate, as ‘fake news’, the integrity of newspapers such as The News is sacrosanct if public officials are to be held to account.

Without such distinguished titles investing in trained journalists to report on events, or expose malpractice, democracy is imperilled.

Yet this is precisely what will happen if local publishers – committed to upholding the highest standards – are undermined by internet giants who allow falsehoods and fake news to masquerade as the truth.

By not subjecting such sites to the same safeguards, scrutiny and standards rightly expected of the printed media, the government gives succour to those who exploit the internet’s cloak of anonymity to fabricate the truth and pursue personal vendettas that can cause great distress to their victims.

For this reason, our parent company Johnston Press today launches a group-wide campaign, called Fighting Fake News, which intends to expose these double standards and urge the next government to take appropriate action.

A battle to secure the future of the free Press, it cannot be won without your support.