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Pope Francis’s definition of ‘fake news’

posted by Tim Carmody   Jan 26, 2018

“Fake news” is kind of a catch-all family-resemblance concept that’s abused as often as it’s used with real insight. But I was impressed by Pope Francis’s clear definition, given as part of an official message by the Vatican to mark World Communication Day:

While President Donald Trump has often dismissed news outlets and stories as “fake news,” Francis defined it as “the spreading of disinformation online or in the traditional media. It has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader.”

He added, “Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests.”

Francis’s main example of fake news? The serpent’s message to Eve and Adam about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This example shows that “there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects.”

Maybe along with Bishop of Rome and father of the Church, the Pope would make a good public editor.