Tackling Fake News: Causes, Implications & Responses

By Hannah Yeates LL.B., Queen’s University Belfast


In recent months, the term ‘fake news’ has become a familiar one within the media. The widespread satirical use of the term has lead to a loss of its particular meaning as a new challenge within our culture. The problem, which should be of growing concern to all internet users, is in need of significant regulation. It is critical that a new level of control is gained over 21st century news consumption in order for this dangerous issue to be tackled.This piece will set the scene of a new media and digital age in which the vast spread of ‘fake news’ has been facilitated. Having done so, it will explore the various worrying, yet often overlooked, implications it has had upon democratic societies and why our current laws and regulatory authorities have failed to prevent them. Furthering the current literary discussion of the area, this project will turn to responses to ‘fake news’ and will involve the careful consideration of several potential means of regaining control; where they are likely to be effective and where, alternatively, they will pose new problems and ultimately result in waste of resources.

Chapter One:


  1.  Research Question & Methodology

In this digital age of new media, the consumption of news has been entirely transformed and, as a consequence, the spread of ‘Fake News’[1] has been facilitated. This is a huge legal problem and one that is challenging our democracy of free speech and freedom of information in a new way. I will research this issue of fake news; how it has emerged and then become more evident within the 21st century, what it looks like today, and it’s worrying implications for our society. I will question how the problem is to be tackled, if it can be challenged at all; analysing the potential gaps within the current law and then proposing a solution, with careful consideration of whether that should be a legal one or otherwise. This piece will combine media studies and journalism studies with a legal outlook. The research involved will be desk-based.

  1.  Structure

In Chapter Two I will provide a background to the issue of fake news by discussing the consumption of news within the 21st century. Before focusing in on the problem at hand, it is necessary to set the scene with facts and statistics regarding some of the elements that have contributed to it. I will consider the growth of the phenomenon of social media and the filtering of content that this encourages, alongside the tabloidization and sensationalism of news sharing online. Chapter Three will then focus specifically on the problem of fake news; its causes and the implications and threats that it brings. I will discuss the frightening realities of inaccurate ‘viral’ circulation, generally misinformed citizens and, overall, a new challenge to our democracy of free speech and freedom of information.

In Chapter Four I will look at what the law currently requires regarding the press and broadcasting, considering what this actually means for online news outlets and social media. I will look at the remedies available at present and, throughout, discuss whether more needs to be done if fake news is to be tackled. Chapter Five will include proposals or suggestions for measures that will combat fake news. I will consider whether a legislative solution will be effective or realistic, and compare other regulatory solutions and control mechanisms. In Chapter Six I will conclude by pulling my research together and looking forward to the future of fake news.

Chapter Two:

Contemporary News Consumption

  1.  The Social Media Phenomenon

In the 21st century, keeping up to date with the world around you can be entirely possible without ever purchasing a newspaper or watching the news on television. The internet has transformed the way in which news is distributed, and the use of social media has played a significant role in that. Kaplan and Haenlein described social media as ‘a group of Internet-based applications … that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content’.[2] It was described as having become a ‘global phenomenon’ by Pew Research Center in 2010, who stated that almost half of adults in countries such as the UK, USA, Poland and South Korea make use of social networking websites and applications.[3] These social networks have evolved beyond their core function as a means of communication between friends, and into another online news outlet. Purcell found that 75% of online news consumers in the US receive news via social network posts.[4]

If an individual decides to use a social media platform, then regardless of their intention for use when signing up for the account, they will be constantly reading updates of news on that space. As the nature of social networking is the sharing of information, it is inevitable that the particular news stories of that day will become part of the sharing. Kwak and Lee studied the characteristics of Twitter as a new information-sharing platform, which they described as bringing about the emergence of collective intelligence.[5] They explain how, as a result of its ‘Retweet’ function, Twitter has become ‘a media for breaking news in a manner close to omnipresent CCTV’ and proof of this is in the fact that news has broken out on Twitter before CNN live broadcasts.[6]

This growth in the use of social media, and in particular its use for reading news online, appears (from the outset) to be a good thing. Hermida and Fletcher found that social media are ‘becoming central to the way people experience news’. They discuss the way in which technologies have given users the ability to personalise their news stream and that users value this means of filtering content. They describe it as an ‘evolution of the public sphere’ which is ‘reshaping’ the entire dynamic of news publication and distribution, subsequently affecting the role of journalists and ‘established flows of information’.[7] The writers do not, however, present these effects as being overly detrimental. Singer certainly discusses this transformation in a positive light, referring to how media organisations have embraced it as offering them new ways to distribute and target their news content to a broad audience.[8] There are many positive aspects of social media news sharing.

Not all age groups consume news the same way. Of course, there remain a significant number of people who get their news at 6 o’clock on television, but others may never sit to watch a news broadcast or read a newspaper. Statistics from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017 show the generational split. They state that 64% of 18-24 year olds use the internet as their main source of news (including social media platforms) compared to 29% who chose either television or printed newspaper. Over half of those aged over 55 said television was their primary news outlet.[9] Those who keep up to date with news through their social media feeds may receive the same mainstream stories, but those will be dispersed amongst many updates from more unusual sources. This is when the ability to distinguish fact from fiction is essential.

  1.  Tabloidization of Online News

We rely upon access to information as a fundamental guarantor of democracy; assuming that more information means more accountability, fairness and transparency. Information is referred to as a ‘public good’[10] because, generally, being well informed keeps a person safe. Social media and online news allows for a constant flow of information; it enables citizens to access a broad spectrum of types of informative material from across the globe, in an instant. An issue arises, however, whenever people become so constantly well informed that they believe everything they are exposed because it has been circulated on their feed, but they know nothing about the reliability of its original source. Pentina and Tarafdar expressed a negative view of this new media news consumption. They stated that there is an ‘avalanche of information’ available from a ‘soaring number of (frequently unverified) sources’ and that the consequences include ‘information overload, suboptimal knowledge formation, and biased worldview’.[11]

With the use of online news outlets, there comes the issue of misleading headlines. Blom and Hansen analyse headlines from news websites and discuss tabloidization of online news, summarising that ‘if the readers click it does the trick, seems to be the logic’.[12] Where media organisations embrace the internet as their opportunity to distribute material to an immeasurable audience, the presence of ambiguous and intentionally deceiving headlines is inevitable; they want readers to choose to read (and then share) their articles over the many others on their feed. News content posted online will not be likely to be read nor will it be shared further if it does not have an element of sensationalism (misdirecting people on the truth of the story), therefore there is a stronger tendency for using these types of headlines with tabloid media on news websites, than in the press.

Why do people, especially those of younger generations, wish to share news stories over social media? Lee and Ma address this question.[13] They discuss the ‘Uses and Gratifications’ theory (an old media studies theory, originally developed in relation to radio and television, but applied to online news by Diddi and LaRose in 2006[14]) and its attempt at explaining the psychological motivations. They also discussed, with reference to Ames and Naaman[15], status seeking and a need to gain attention as further driving factors. Similarly, Rogers talked of how the sharing of credible and relevant content makes the social media user appear credible and as an ‘opinion leader’ to those who access it and find it interesting.[16] Generally, people want to be seen as influencers. Alongside the desire to be well informed, there is the desire to be the one who is informing others. The culture of the 21st century is one in which people depend upon the approval and recognition which they receive online, in the form of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. They meet this psychological need by posting updates of news that are interesting or entertaining, but not necessarily important or even factual.

  1.  Echo Chambers & Filter Bubbles

Hermida and Fletcher found that Canadians were twice as likely to prefer reading the news that was shared or recommended by their friends and family on social media, than news from journalists or official outlets.[17] They described news as being a ‘shared social experience’ now, and said this has become more enjoyable, however they questioned the potential outcome of exposure to (only) news which is popular rather than important.[18] I would further question what aspects of those stories are making them popular; it is unlikely to be their reliable factual basis but rather their entertainment value.

It is entirely possible to alter your social media feed in a way that allows you to view only the news updates that are relevant to your interests or opinions. Nov and others referred to this news-filtering potential as an attractive aspect, which is transforming users from ‘passive consumers of content’ into ‘active producers’.[19] There is a danger, however, where filtering is not recognised by the users as being in place. A study by Elsami (from 2015) found that 63% of participators were not aware that algorithms were filtering their Facebook News Feed, making it personalised to include only information that is relevant to them.[20] Many internet users are not fully aware of the types of material they are being exposed to or having hidden from them.

Two phenomena that are created by this filtering are known as ‘echo-chambers’ and ‘filter bubbles’. A book by Sunstein from 2007, focuses in on the idea of echo-chambers with regard to blogging (at this stage, social media was only developing, but the concepts still apply).[21] Sunstein describes the increasing power people have to decide when to ‘screen in and screen out’ and he addresses the impacts upon a democracy of free speech. He discusses the negative affects upon societies where the ideal of ‘The Daily Me’, whereby individuals read a form of newspaper entirely limited to their own interests, becomes reality. This old concept originates from Negroponte.[22] He says, ‘…because it is so easy to learn about the choices of ‘people like you’, countless people make the same choices that are made by others like them’ and explains the ability to ‘design something very much like communications universe of their own choosing’. Interestingly, he speaks of this movement towards an ‘apparently utopian picture’ as being very dangerous; it results in bad citizenship because, ‘…in a democracy deserving of the name, lives should be structured so that people often come across views and topics that they have not specifically selected’.[23]

There are, of course, positive aspects of social media filtering. Sunstein does not fail to mention the ‘quite wonderful’ benefit of finding recommendations on Netflix or finding a new book through Amazon’s personalised suggestions. This must be balanced, however, against the detriment of strengthening political views (including extremism) by exclusively hearing and learning from those who are like-minded[24], or ‘distorted understanding of some issue, person or practice’ gained from a suggested YouTube clip taken out of context[25]. Pre-existing views are confirmed and exposure to challenging beliefs is limited.[26]

In ‘The Filter Bubble’, Eli Pariser discusses the subtle, but yet fundamental, change of the digital world towards a tool for harnessing as much information about the user as possible and providing a ‘custom-tailored’ space.[27] Pariser is the chief executive of ‘Upworthy’[28], a website promoting meaningful viral content, but also the president of ‘Moveon’[29], a site for political campaigning. Despite this background, he discusses the internet as a harmful reinforcing tool; rather than a useful campaigning one. Although he does not mention (or perhaps even anticipate) issues of outright fakery in news, he does enforce the danger of the confirmation bias that happens in social media ‘bubbles’. These filtered spaces have a ‘powerful allure’ but yet we not ever chose to enter them.[30] In line with the mission of ‘Upworthy’, Pariser questions whether an article about child poverty would ever be considered personally relevant to many of us. Although it may not be, it is still important to know about. This type of story may, however, be hidden from a personalised feed and replaced by a ‘spicy headline’ of dubious factual basis.[31] This leaves us with a misshapen sense of the world around us; one with no perspective on what is important. Democracy is built upon shared knowledge and shared experience, therefore filtered bubbles are threatening it.[32]

Chapter Three:

The ‘Fake News’ Problem: Causes & Implications

  1.  Instantaneous Coverage & Going Viral

The use of social media fuels an overload of information; users are immediately exposed to an ever-increasing amount of news material when they log-on and view their ‘news feeds’. Unfortunately, this material will inevitably include ‘unverified, anonymous and overwhelmingly subjective’ content.[33] As said by Pavlik, ‘we live in an age of ubiquitous information’[34], but much of this information is unreliable and some is entirely false. The concept of fake news has become a ‘hot topic’ recently, but it is more than that; it is a global problem. So, how has this issue come about?

Social media creates a space for a constant flow of content generated by users. This stream of information will, due to the accessibility of social networking applications, include immediate coverage of events and developments. Amongst those that are personal to the user, there will be those updates that involve local, national and even worldwide news. These posts have the ability to be distributed across societies and discussed by users from across the globe within minutes; diffused within a worldwide virtual community.[35] Content is exchanged on a ‘many-to-many model’ and the publishing dynamics of a system based upon the concept of a broadcast audience is altered significantly.[36] By facilitating this ‘viral’ sharing, social media platforms facilitate the circulation of inaccuracies or altogether-fake stories on an extensive scale; far beyond the retrieval of the original (often unrecognised) publisher. Mechanisms such as Twitter’s ‘retweet’ button empower users to spread content of their choice beyond the reach of their own ‘follower’ base. It is this feature which has made Twitter a significant new medium for dissemination of information.[37]

  1.  More (mis)Informed Citizens

The UK Parliament began an inquiry into fake news in April 2017. Much of the written evidence from this inquiry (which has been published online)[38] discussed the definition and scope of fake news. Dr Thorrington stated that the definition should be broad; including any publication which is ‘intended to be treated as an objective report but contains flaws that lessen its objectivity’.[39] Darren Parmenter’s evidence described a ‘meme’ image viewed on Facebook that quoted the then Home Secretary (alongside her image) to have said, “Sex offenders including paedophiles should be allowed to adopt”. An official article by The Daily Telegraph clarified that these were not her words, but something she had been told. A movement of punctuation marks had completely changed the connotation of the image, which had subsequently been shared thousands of times accompanied by ‘incredibly vile and personal comments’. In his opinion, this was a type of fake news; it misinforms the viewer.[40]

The BBC defines fake news as being any information that has been circulated intentionally by hoax news sites to misinform readers, usually for their own political or commercial gain. They note the differentiation between fake news and false news. Fake news, to them, is a term used at times by politicians to dispute comments that they dislike or do not agree with.[41] The National Union of Journalists describe how the use of social media has created a type of ‘eco-system’ in which news, or information pretending to be news, is shared instantly within ‘belief-affirming bubbles’ and this is a backdrop which some (notably politicians) can exploit.[42]

A POSTnote of the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on ‘Online Information and Fake News’ lists various types of fake news. This list includes fabricated content (completely fake), manipulated content (distorting the truth), imposter content (impersonation of a genuine source), misleading content (for example, by presenting an opinion as fact), false context or connection (for example, where a headline does not reflect the material within the article), and satire or parody (whereby something humorous and presented as if it was true). The scope of fake news is extremely wide, as is the variety of online outlets for these types of content.[43]

  1.  Threat to Democracy

The internet has been described as having the potential to be a positive force for democracy and was celebrated in its infancy as such, however, it does not achieve this goal.[44] Although fake news is not a newly emerging issue, it has become more prominent and familiar in recent years (and particularly recent months). Ultimately, it undermines democratic societies in which populations should be able to understand and be informed on the events and decisions in the news that are affecting their lives. Our economy is ‘information-dependent’ and any risk to the standards of media industries and quality journalism will threaten it. The National Union of Journalists states that this is the primary reason why fake news is a problem.[45]

Modern democracies are committed to ensuring freedom of the press and media; many journalists throughout history fought for it. It allows them to publish content without restriction or interference by the state (generally), and is something the UK prides itself on.[46] This does not have any relevance to the online publications of ordinary citizens but their freedom of expression[47], on the other hand, is certainly relevant. Although there are organisations who have the power to limit what is posted across the internet (such as the UK Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) or Ofcom communications regulator), it does seem that very little gets banned from being posted online and free-speech via the internet does appear to be unlimited.[48]

Regarding the online engagement with stories in the critical final weeks of the US presidential election, an analysis by the digital media company, BuzzFeed, found that there was greater attention (shares, reactions and comments) paid to false election stories by hoax sites than there was on the official articles by major news outlets such as the New York Times.[49] This finding is shocking and is of major significance. The use of fake news for political benefit is a dangerous matter; distortion and polarization are inevitable and worrying outcomes for a democracy that is based upon the importance of transparency and accountability.

According to Sunstein, in a democracy people should not live in ‘echo chambers or information cocoons’, but should be exposed to ideas that will challenge them and inform them even if they have not chosen the material in advance. This is not the case where internet users are designing their own daily newspaper.[50] People’s preferences, knowledge and decisions are the result of their exposure to ‘excessively limited options’ and this, in turn, limits their freedom and capacity as citizens.[51] I would add that this limitation is very much related to their reduced ability to distinguish truth from lies, reliability from deception, legitimacy from questionability. It is understandable that people have been found more likely to believe a false claim if it is repeated, even if it contradicts their prior knowledge.[52] We will believe what we read, if we read it enough times and it comes from enough sources; this is ‘the psychology of rumor’ and although it is far from a new concept, it is newly significant as a major reason why the spread of fake news is palpable within the bubble of a social media feed.

Chapter Four:

A Legal Gap?

  1. Accuracy/Truth

We believe, as a society in general, that the truth is a good and important thing. We are people who want to know more all of the time, and want to have access to an abundance of information regarding every aspect of our lives, so that we can live as well-informed people and make good decisions based on that. For this to be the case, such information must be the truth. Barendt refers to the discovery of truth as ‘an autonomous and fundamental good’, which has significant value ‘concerning progress and the development of society’. He states that this is why it is one of the most durable arguments in support of the freedom of speech.[53] Accuracy is a social goal and we should understand that it is a better thing, for the world, if we have access to accurate news. We receive this news on an hourly basis from the media, and the legal system has, therefore, placed an emphasis on enforcing accuracy across the various platforms to which we are exposed. In some circumstances, however, this is only a gentle emphasis. In reality, the social goal of truthfulness and accuracy must be balanced against others; namely the freedom of speech.

Although the UK prides itself on its free press, journalism is still restricted through laws, broadcasting or regulatory standards and guidelines. War reporting, blasphemy, contempt, information regarding minors or vulnerable individuals, discriminatory content, incitement to crime and issues of national security are all examples of the types of material that are restricted within journalism. These types of restrictions are generally understood and well supported by the general public, when they consider the moral and/or ethical reasoning for them. Even those who actively support and promote free speech will generally accept them as being reasonable.[54] The press and broadcasting media are, therefore, monitored, regulated and controlled, to an extent, by different bodies and authorities. Truth and accuracy do play an important role and are recognised in these areas; there are incentives to be truthful in reporting and publishing, for example as a defence to defamation allegations. Although the effectiveness of this regulation is arguable, it does exist and the procedures are in place to attempt to enforce accurate publication of the truth.

In contrast to these other media platforms, there is, at present, very little legislation allowing for any control of what is published on the internet. The internet remains, for the most part, quite unregulated in terms of accuracy and truth. Many are of the opinion that this has allowed freedom of speech to get ‘out of hand’ because there are only implied moral responsibilities of users not to write anything online that will cause harm to others.[55] Besides the deterrent of the risk of a defamation case (as this doctrine applies to internet material just as it does with other platforms) there is no explicit legal requirement that what an individual choses to post online is accurate or even truthful. Whilst entities described as ‘internet information gatekeepers’, such as search engines and social networking sites are considered to have particular responsibilities through their position of authority, general internet users are not.[56] This has facilitated the spread of fake news.

  1.  The Press

Following the News of the World phone-hacking scandal of 2011, the Leveson Inquiry was set up to examine the press and debate how it should be regulated. This was a public inquiry, which heard from a number of high-profile witnesses and focused upon the culture, practices and ethics of the press. Within the final report, Lord Leveson recommended that a new, independent body should replace the existing Press Complaints Commission and that it should be supported by new legislation. This currently exists as the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and regulates both the print press and online press content. Government declined, however, to enact new laws to recognise it, so it remains as a non-statutory authority.[57]

IPSO attempts to uphold high, professional standards in journalism by monitoring the compliance of its members with an Editors’ Code of Practice and investigating where there have been complaints and reports of serious breaches of the Code. They also provide guidance and training for editors and journalists, and have a ‘Whistleblowing Hotline’. The Code is written by the Editors’ Code Committee and sets out a framework of rules that all magazines and newspapers, who have volunteered to be regulated by IPSO, have subsequently agreed to and committed to following. The rules are set out under various headings such as Accuracy, Privacy, Children, Reporting of Crime and Discrimination.[58]

Under the heading of Accuracy, the Editors’ Code notes that there must be care taken not to publish inaccurate, misleading, or distorted information and that where this happens there must be prompt corrections and appropriate apologies. Furthermore, there must be clear distinction between published comment, conjecture and fact.[59] Such rules are obviously of relevance to the issue of fake news. This authority aims to promote high standards of journalism by ensuring that its members are committed to following detailed rules on accuracy, among other aspects. The body is independent, however, and is not statutory; there is no legislation backing its work, despite it having a huge number of members and therefore the potential for significant influence.

  1.  Broadcasting Media

The statutory body, Ofcom (the Office of Communications), regulates all broadcasters with wide coverage; all radio stations and television channels, including satellite and cable. Its powers are set out in the Communications Act 2003 and its ‘Broadcasting Code’ specifies its standards. Although they are not in statute, they are required to be followed according to statute and are conditions of retaining the licence that the broadcaster has been granted. Section 5 of this document is particularly relevant to issues of truth as it requires ‘news is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality’.[60] It specifically defines what accuracy means and it includes the mention of issues like misrepresentation and deception. Similarly, section 7 gives requirements regarding elections. It orders fairness as a specific duty (which is punishable by fines and by withdrawal of licenses) that broadcasters must avoid any unjust or unfair treatment of an individual or an organisation. Broadcasters cannot only present one side of a story; they must present a full picture and allow for responses. This is a key aspect of truth-telling; it requires a story to be shared with full coverage, rather than with a deceiving or misleading perspective or single opinion.

If fake news were to be broadcast on a television channel, it would be relatively straightforward to bring a complaint to Ofcom. Ofcom would look back at this television programme, make a decision on whether it had breached their code and would act accordingly. This would involve publishing the decision to the public who had been misinformed, ordering an apology from the broadcasters, potentially issuing a fine and, in the most extreme of cases, acting to remove their license. This is generally how the complaints procedure would work in practice as set out under the framework of section 319 of the 2003 Act.[61]

  1.  The Internet

There is a historic distinction between the press and broadcasting. Generally, when we think of broadcasting media we are thinking about screens, computers and higher levels of technology than would be involved with the press and newspapers. The internet, however, is actually more similar to the press in that it does not require a license. Barendt, in rejecting the analogy with broadcasting, notes how the internet ‘does not invade the home in the same way as radio and television; users do not come across indecent (or other) items by accident’.[62] Alongside this difference, the specific rules for broadcasting like, for example: impartiality, regulatory bodies, obtaining licenses, controls on advertising, do not apply to the internet. The internet allows, generally, for open access, and operates without a system of centralized control, because it was not set up to be subject to the same statutory requirement to control anyone with access to the system; it does not have the same ‘gatekeepers’ determining what is transmitted.[63] As noted, the main thing that the internet has in common with the press is the lack of a need for a license.

One way in which the internet is regulated, to an extent, is through the work of a self-regulatory body called the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The IWF is not overly well-known and monitors limited types of content like images of child sexual abuse or other obscene or violent content. This body is funded and supported by the European Union as well as major ISPs, filtering companies and search providers. One function is to provide a ‘hotline’ through which the public can report accidental exposure to criminal content online.[64] Another crucial role they play is in providing block lists to ISPs, which they can then use to ensure nobody reaches the inappropriate content. This function really makes the difference to internet users. When the IWF get a report that there is particular URL on which obscene images are found, they add this to the block list which is given to ISPs to be filtered and made inaccessible. While the material is still online, and could potentially be reached if accessed from another country, it is blocked and found as a blank page to any UK internet users. Takedown of images hosted abroad is dependent on the actions of local authorities.[65]

The IWF developed as an alternative to legal action. The government wanted ISPs to have the duty to block images of this nature but the industry disagreed, based on the huge expense and general feasibility. The response was going to be a legal obligation to do it, and so the IWF was set up as means of self-regulation. Although online exposure to child sexual abuse was the primary focus of the IWF’s work, the system has also been used for the blocking of copyright infringement. Under intellectual property law there is a system whereby an injunction can be obtained against those who are in the position to prevent harm, by copyright infringement. This injunction will order ISPs to block the particular streaming site that is being used. Over the last decade, many applications have been brought to the High Court from the creative industry (including movie producers, record labels, publishers) and their primary argument is that if this blocking can already be done for abuse images then surely it could be used for this type of material, too.[66]

At present, the IWF cannot be said to be doing anything for fake news. It is interesting to consider whether or not it would be capable of any monitoring or regulation of this and if not, why not? The technology and procedures that are used could be the same as those which are used for child abuse images or copyright infringement content. The main issue, I would suggest, is that whilst everyone can probably come to agreement on whether or not an image of a child is of a pornographic and therefore inappropriate nature, it would not be so black and white in deciding whether any statement online is true or false.[67] There could be too many grey areas and controversy over what should be blocked and whether the IWF had the right to block specific pages on the basis of an inaccurate statement, anyway.

  • Remedies in Defamation & Privacy

Defamation law is certainly relevant to the issue of fake news due to the importance of the falsehood of the statement in question. The Defamation Act 2013 (England and Wales, only) Section 2 clarifies the statutory defence of truth. It is the current law that a statement is not defamatory if it is proven to be ‘essentially’ or ‘substantially’ true.[68] The prospect of a defamation case will be a significant deterrence to any journalist and the pre-publication procedures involved in their role will ensure that they will not often end up in this type of legal action. Where a defamation case is brought against a newspaper, it will be them who must to prove the truth rather than the complainant. This is one of the ways that truth is enforced. This forces or at least encourages publishers to consider the truthfulness of content. This is not the case, however, regarding defamation online. A member of the public who publishes material on an online platform does not face the same prospect and does not have the same reason to consider what they are posting. They are not writing from a position of authority or employment from which they can be removed, and do not have the responsibility to represent a particular newspaper or magazine; they are only an individual online profile.

Alongside the defence of truth, there is also the qualified privilege for publication of defamatory material that is in the public interest. This is also in statute for England and Wales.[69] This statutory defence abolished the common law ‘Reynolds defence’, which was clarified within the House of Lords case of Reynolds [2001][70], and provided that a journalist can argue that they had a duty to publish material, even if it turned out to be false, if it was in the interest of the public for them to do so. In Reynolds, Lord Nicholls set out 10 factors for the court to take into account in deciding whether a defendant should be able to rely upon this defence. These included matters such as the seriousness of the allegation, the nature of the information, the steps taken to verify the information and the urgency of the matter.[71] These factors became well-known standards of responsible journalism and further guidance on their use as a test was given in the later case of Jameel [2007].[72] This was a way in which the legal system tried to incentivize ‘good’ and careful journalism by using a broad, liberal approach and considering a wide range of aspects.[73] The 2013 Act provides no list of standards that the publisher must meet and so the courts need not use these as a benchmark any longer.[74]

Cases of defamation linked to the internet are on the rise due to the failure of online platforms to put in place the same types of pre-publication controls that are used in traditional media broadcasting.[75] The key case of Tamiz v Google Inc [2012][76] sets out, with clarity, a message of positive inaction on the part of the UK courts towards victims of online defamation. It demonstrates, essentially, that a ‘host’ of online content does not have to do all that much. In this case it was held that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is merely a ‘host’ of the relevant content and this means its role has been passive rather than actively publicising or even authorising material. Similar reasoning was used in the cases of Bunt v Tilley [2007][77] and Metropolitan International Schools [2011][78] regarding this ‘passive facilitation’ of defamatory content. Such ISPs are subsequently immune from defamation actions according to Regulation 19 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations of 2002.[79] The exception here is where an ISP or ‘host’ has been notified of the existence of defamatory material on their platform but have failed to take adequate steps to remove it, as was the case in Godfrey [2001][80]. This exception is built into the Directive.

The Defamation Act 2013 (Section 5) makes it even easier for hosts to deny responsibility for content on their websites. If you are, as the Act says, the operator of a website, you may only need to pass on the complaint (subject to conditions) and you are very well protected from legal action under defamation. This is the case, in particular, where the writer of the material is named and traceable. While the Defamation Bill was debated within the House of Lords, many members referred to the impact upon Mumsnet and similar famous websites.[81] Mumsnet online forum were lobbying to say that while many post on their very influential discussion groups, they cannot check the truth or accuracy of each message; all they are capable of doing is putting the writer and complainer in touch with each other and allowing them to establish truth between themselves. The website operator of Mumsnet cannot be in the position to judge the truth of each individual statement and so they would find themselves exposed to far too much liability if this was required of them.[82]

I would argue that the same can be said of social media platforms such as Facebook; surely they cannot be expected to have the positive duty to be actively looking for false material or inaccurate news sharing on their entire website? At present, they only have the obligation to take particular types of material down if it has been reported to them. In the Northern Irish case of CG v Facebook [2016], Facebook failed on this point and were held to be liable to the respondent in damages for misuse of private information which they should have or ought to have known had been published on their platform.[83]

It is extremely difficult for a person who has been a victim of online defamation to know who they can take action against or to have any confidence that any legal actions would be successful. Cyberspace has no legal borders as it crosses national boundaries; any message or piece of information can be instantaneously dispersed across many geographical locations but there are no legal barriers across the internet to prevent this flow.[84] As was predicted by Negroponte back in the 1990s, we now ‘socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space [is] irrelevant and time [plays] a different role’.[85] In these we can be anonymous and untraceable; we will write things we would never have said, or at least would certainly have given more consideration, aloud in a face-to-face discussion. As a result, in many cases of defamation online, it is impossible to distinguish the physical location of the ISP, server or the author and such material can be particularly damaging and harmful. Although this anonymity does not stop law enforcement from attempting to track down online breaches of the law, when regarding individual defamatory comments this can be extremely difficult and time consuming, and therefore impractical.

Where an internet user has succeeded with legal action under defamation law, they may be compensated by way of damages. Alternatively or in addition, an injunction may be issued. I doubt the use of financial compensation if that post has been shared across the online community and seen by hundreds or thousands of other users. Although an injunction should prevent any further spread, the post may have already gone far. The false information about that person has probably already been easily published, easily accessed and easily shared, without any hindrance to the many internet users who were involved. This is referred to by Negroponte as ‘a new kind of fraud’ when he compares how easily he can send something which is read on the internet, to ‘literally thousands of people all over the planet’, compared to spreading a physical newspaper clipping. This can seem completely harmless, because it is so easy, and this is where the problem lies.[86]

  •    Enough?

The internet has become a type of ‘worldwide collective of free speech’ which has reached the stage of being out of control.[87] While many defend this and argue that the internet is the one place where free speech remains unfettered, it seems clear that the coming years of this digital age are going to present legislators and courts with many challenges regarding online content. While the internet has facilitated a global freedom to express and exchange ideas and opinions, which is important in a democratic society, it has also facilitated a significant rise in misinformation and, ultimately, the spread of fake news.[88]

The truth is important to us, as a society. Effort has been made to encourage the spread of the truth in television and radio broadcasting; it was recognised that this was important and so a whole regulatory and license system was developed for this reason. Similarly, individuals and companies are willing to spend huge amounts of money on legal fees for libel/defamation cases because they feel that it is important that the truth is told and spread about them. The belief that the truth is important and good within society is expressed through the combination of bodies, authorities and mechanisms that I have discussed in this chapter. The area, in which this belief is not having any impact, is in the context of the internet.

There is plenty of regulation out there, which is appropriate to the press and to broadcasting media. Although it is a small number, there are television and radio channels that have lost their licenses for failure to properly fact-check the content they are broadcasting.[89] License revocation is the ultimate sanction; more often they would only be fined, butthe problem is that these mechanisms of monitoring and regulating are either impractical, inappropriate, or insufficient if/when they are applied to the internet. The internet, as a different platform of electronic media, has been left so far apart from other platforms; it is regulated very informally and, aside from the IWF, has no broad oversight by any agency which is controlling its content.[90] The internet is left as a gap which needs to be filled. Existing means of regulation need to be adapted in order to suit the internet’s various platforms, or new means need to be established and developed. Maybe its ‘global reach and distributed architecture’ are what make it impossible for the existing bodies to do this job.[91] The alternative is, perhaps, that new laws are the only outcome that will be effective in ‘reining in’ the freedom currently enjoyed by internet users.

Chapter Five:

Combatting ‘Fake News’: A Regulatory Solution?

  1. ‘Anti-Fake News’ Legislation

Whether it is possible to regulate the content individuals post online, and if so, what type of regulation would be most effective, are extremely complex questions. While the most obvious form of regulation is legislation, this is not straightforward with regard to cyberspace. Which actions or types of content would such a cyberlaw criminalise and how would that law be enforced effectively? These are the questions legislators would need to consider and from the outset, and when considering the issue of fake news, the answers are certainly not obvious. Legislating, although it may seem like the most direct and impactful means of taking control, takes huge amounts of time, effort and resources. Before these are wasted on a new law that will not have the required impact, these difficult questions must be answered.

Cyberpaternalism takes the position that it is very possible for national laws to effectively regulate cyberspace. Reidenberg took this view at an early stage.[92] While other cyberlaw theorists considered the internet to be inherently unregulable by its design, and thought that it would be entirely independent and unrestricted, Reidenberg saw the potential for unique types of control. At a European Union level, the problem of fake news is recognised and attention is being paid to the potential for a legislative solution. A public consultation was launched by the European Commission in November 2017 (which ran until February 2018), with the objective of assessing the effectiveness of current actions addressing different types of fake news.[93] In a text adopted by European Parliament, the Commission was called upon to analyse the current legal framework and verify the possibility of new legislative interventions.[94] The idea of a legal solution is, therefore, not a new concept.

How, then, could legislation control internet content? Traditional laws consist of three elements: a director, a detector and an effector.[95] The director is the standard that has been set and the detector is the means of detecting any deviation from that standard. The effector is the mechanism used to push the deviant behaviour back towards the standard. It is difficult or, arguably, impossible for any of these elements to function effectively with regard to cyberspace. Those who would be subject to such laws are no more than ‘digital personae’ who cannot always be identified or physically located let alone fined or imprisoned. Furthermore, with the ability to move between zones governed by different regimes, state sovereignty would be undermined.[96] It is significantly more difficult and more expensive to enforce laws where the unlawful activities or communications can cross national borders. Cases would involve complex questions; does it depend where, geographically, the unlawful act can be sourced to have taken place or where it was eventually received/detected? When dealing with the internet as a global medium, lawmakers will face these problems.

Reed discusses the way in which law does not operate as a system of control because this would assume that it is only the fear of the law’s sanctions which forces us to behave in a way which complies with them. In reality, humans conduct their lives according to social norms and believe that the law reflects them. Rather than being controlled and deterred by law enforcement, people live by its normative effects.[97] Reed states that a successful law will, therefore, either entrench already existing norms or reinforce a developing one, like the UK law mandating the wearing of seat belts.[98] If we are aware that there are already deeply entrenched norms existing in cyberspace regarding the free flow of information and news, how can a law be introduced which would contradict or challenge them? An example of the ineffectiveness of this approach is the attempt to curtail file sharing of digital music through copyright laws. Murray describes this clash between cyberspace norms and legal rules as ‘regulatory flux’.[99]

For legislation to be effective, it must be able to be taken seriously and be considered as meaningful or necessary. A national law, which would attempt to exert control over all cyberspace users, would be unlikely to meet these criteria; it would be considered unfeasibly burdensome or unenforceable.[100] One individual internet user cannot be expected to investigate the laws of every country which may apply to his/her activity online, then look closely at those to decide whether their activity is lawful or not. Similarly, a law may not be perceived as being applicable because it attempts to regulate a technology that is no longer in date. This poses questions for the regulation of cyberspace; the pace of legal change could never compare with the pace of technological advancement.[101] Furthermore, where a piece of legislation is going to be taken seriously and considered to be meaningful, it must be understandable. An issue that is as wide in scope as the spread of fake news, would require vast amounts of explanatory information involving technical terminology and precise detail. It would be extremely difficult to provide sufficient detail in order to avoid any uncertainty regarding legal application, without causing complete confusion.[102]

Lawrence Lessig was greatly influenced by Reidenberg and the cyber-paternalist school. In Code 2.0 he uses a dot to represent a person or thing, which is being controlled or regulated.[103] He talks about four distinct, yet interdependent modalities of control: legal constraints (threatening punishments), social norms (focusing on stigmas), market (prices and supply) and technology or architecture (physical burdens). These can support and enable, or undermine or oppose each other, but a complete view of regulation will involve all four together.[104] Law is one mechanism of control over the dot, but it is not the only one or even, necessarily, the most effective one. The law can have direct operation in telling societies how to behave and controlling behaviour by threatening punishment if they deviate from the lawful standard. On the other hand, a law could have indirect operation in that it would aid one of the other modalities.[105] The same can be said regarding the regulation of actions online. While legislation may play a part and contribute to control with indirect operation, the other modalities need to play their part too and support the efforts, as a law will not be effective on its own.

  1. Social Media Mechanisms

Reed states that the area of content control is one in which the internet has ‘robbed the law of much of its power’, but that it is also an area in which code has huge potential.[106] Due to the ‘decentralised design’ and ‘dispersed architecture’ of the internet, it has often been considered to be immune from any censorship by the state.[107] This is not entirely true, however, as most internet users will have encountered internet blocking and content filtering mechanisms which are used to ensure that some control is in place. These techniques and technological features are continuously being developed to do more to impose control over access to particular types of content, webpages or websites. Lessig describes code as ‘the instructions embedded in the software or hardware that makes cyberspace what it is’.[108] Code is the architecture of cyberspace and it has the potential to provide means of regulation.

The architecture of the internet will always influence the way in which an individual uses it; it enables certain activities and behaviours but, by design, it will also constrain and restrict others. The environment with which an internet user becomes familiar with and enjoys, exists because of coding. In the same way, it can be limited and controlled with use of code. If this is the case, the ones who regulate the coding of the internet and therefore control its architecture, are the ones who can regulate the content. Similarly, areas of the internet can charge for access or require paid subscriptions for their use. If this does not restrict access, busy signals can do so. This is what Lessig describes as the market modality of control. Just as with law, architectural and market influences can contribute to control over a person or thing.[109] Each of these modalities will have a cost and take time to introduce and so it is important to consider which ways, or in which combinations, they will be most effective.

Throughout the evidence of the parliamentary inquiry into fake news there are mentions of architectural mechanisms relating to changes made by browsers or social media platforms. One common suggestion is that genuine news outlets are allowed to display a mark/sticker of verification on their webpage or publications.[110] The issue with such a proposal is that a decision would need to be made on which authority should be allowed to grant the verificatoin and this would, potentially, be an authority derived from government. If this were the case there would, inevitably, be debate on whether government should have the power to decide what is truth or should be considered to be truthful. This would contradict the expectation that the public should be allowed to make up their minds on what is truthful or legitimate. Another fault with this recommendation is that this would not tackle the issue of fake news spread by ordinary social media users, it would only verify main news outlets; individuals could not be verified as they could not be distinguished as a legitimate source. The news pages that they share could be verified, but their own posts could not.[111]

Another recommendation for architectural means of control is that major players such as Google and Yahoo! have a ‘news toolbar’ which would appear on everyone’s search pages. Using the toolbar, anyone could tag something that they consider to be fake news and if there are multiple reports then the stories would be flagged to be checked. Linda Greenwood compares this idea to an Amazon toolbar add-on which allows her to add shopping to her basket from any website.[112] The issue I would suggest for this measure is that a group must be delegated as responsible for the checking of flagged stories and there would be debate over which group should have such power. Furthermore, it would not be enough to introduce this add-on feature without promoting it and providing a great deal of information on why it is vital that it is used (and used properly). Internet users cannot be expected to embrace a feature and make use of it if they are not aware of its importance.

Edmund Wisty, a computer consultant, recommended that social media sites should display ‘traffic graphs’ for their trending posts, which would give users the ability to check whether growth rates look to be reasonable or forced.[113] Although this measure would, potentially, be useful in evaluating the truthfulness of a Tweet or shared story, it would require the user to go to the effort of analysing a graph and attempting to understand it. The readers would first have to doubt the accuracy of the news story and chose themselves that it was worth going to this effort. It may not be overly beneficial if this feature was not automatically visible to the reader, beside the post or tweet.

Google outline their attempts at introducing better mechanisms for controlling the amount of misleading or inaccurate content.[114] They note that they have introduced fact-check labels to both their search and news functions, and are taking steps to help users find fact-checked articles with critical outlooks. They are working to improve the algorithms that produce their search results, to reduce the number of sites that are able to reach the top of the results through use of deceiving headlines or through misrepresenting themselves.

All of the suggested technological solutions require more than just an introduction; they must be promoted, supported and have their importance rigorously explained to internet users. As argued by Lessig, the architectural modality of regulation is unlikely to be sufficiently effective on its own. These measures could make a difference in the short term but longer-term approaches would be critical alongside the attempts of the social media platforms and browsers.

  1. Awareness & Education

Those who are very familiar with use of the internet (Lessig refers to them as ‘Netizens’) become aware of the behaviours that are considered to be socially acceptable and those that are not, within their online environments and the online communities in which they interact. This is relevant to the final of Lessig’s modalities of control; social norms. He mentions examples of behaviour that would not be socially accepted on the net; posting about irrelevant matters on a newsgroup forum or talking too much on a discussion group.[115] Social norms can be extremely effective in controlling particular types of behaviour. This is because stigmas are attached and sanctions can be imposed whenever individuals conduct themselves in a way that is not acceptable to their community. The risk of the type of scrutiny a person may be subjected to by society may be enough to deter them from acting in a particular way and may even be a more significant deterrent than the risk of legal sanction. Online, the result may be that the user is removed from the newsgroup, blocked from the forum, reported and have their profile deleted from the social media site or have their subscription to a platform cancelled.

Many norms exist because of the existence of legislation and therefore line up with behaviour that is legal. The example Lessig discusses is the wearing of seat belts. While legislation directly regulates this by mandating it, social norms also regulate it in that there is a stigma against those who choose not to. The norm lines up with the influence of law. There are, however, other ways to develop or change social norms; education is the most obvious. The funding of public education campaigns can be immensely effective in creating stigmas and developing the sense that a particular conduct is not acceptable.[116] Regarding the issue of fake news, I think it is particularly important for education to be funded, allowing younger generations to learn about the importance of thinking critically about the sources from which they are reading their news. This, in turn, should result in a change in social norms relating to the sharing of news and an understanding that spreading material that is inaccurate or entirely false is dangerous and socially unacceptable.

Many of the written evidence reports from the parliamentary inquiry directly discussed awareness and education as being a long-term requirement if the fake news issue is to be tackled from the source.[117] The contribution by the founder of Simple Politics, a website and social media presence, discussed the importance of equipping young people with the skills they need to identify fake news themselves and instilling within them the desire to hunt for facts, rather than taking information at face value.[118] Education on these issues and development of critical thinking skills within schools will play a fundamental role in the changing of social norms as a method of control because the younger generations can bring a new awareness into their jobs and futures.

Dr Gray and Professor Phippen, academics and authors in the field, focused their attention exclusively on children and the particular problems they have regarding recognition of false information. They clarified that the issue lies in the blurring of boundaries between information which is authoritative and that which is purely for entertainment purposes.[119] They expressed concern that a generation with limited awareness of ‘digital moralities’ will be likely to face an erosion of their rights alongside abuses by industries and governments; they describe the growth of fake news as being the critical ‘warning signal’ that urgent action is needed. They suggest that this urgent action should involve development in education on the digital world; digital issues should not be kept to a restricted section of the school curriculum but should be infiltrated within other subjects because these issues influence all areas of life.[120]

This type of educational development must stem from and be supported by policies that have national acknowledgement; it must come hand-in-hand with these. It is essential that changes and additions to the school curriculum are adequately resourced and respected as being crucial for the young generations who face these digital issues on a daily basis and must be equipped. Under this objective, teachers must be adequately resourced and upskilled to be fully aware and knowledgeable regarding the significance of these issues and the risks associated with them. Alongside more technological, ICT-based lessons on authoritative and reliable sources, and distinguishing factual information from biased opinions or deceptive commentaries, children should be taught, more generally, how to be critically minded and reflective when accessing news online.

One example of relevant educational development is the new interactive game launched by the BBC, which is giving young people the challenge of taking on the role of a journalist and spotting fake news. The task involves decision-making regarding the trustworthiness and legitimacy of sources, political claims and social media comments. The BBC ‘iReporter’ game, which is aimed at 11-18 year olds, is one aspect of an wider initiative which also provides teachers and older students with classroom resources and lesson plans on various topics surrounding the issue of fake news.[121] A BBC Live lesson was also streamed for schoolchildren on ‘sorting fact from fiction’. This interactive session involved experts from ‘Full Fact’, an independent fact-checking organization.[122] More platforms must begin to incorporate fake news into their initiatives for education and awareness.

Whilst campaigns for education and awareness have the potential to influence attitudes towards fake news and result in a vast understanding into the dangers of it, this will not regulate the issue on its own. This cannot be a perfect solution as it may, primarily, take time to inform people and change their views on the importance of this issue, particularly with developments in education only influencing the younger generations in the short term. It does remain, however, that education and awareness must play a major role in attempts to tackle fake news.

Chapter Six:


Distribution and consumption of news has changed remarkably within the 21st century with the growth in the use of social media platforms, especially among younger generations, playing a key role. Amongst many positive aspects, reliance upon online outlets for news has many downfalls. Individuals can, before they are even aware of it, enter into an echo-chamber or filter bubble in which they are only exposed to stories and viewpoints which will confirm and reinforce their existing beliefs. This leads to them having a significantly limited perspective of the world around them.[123]

Within these restricted feeds of news coverage, internet users become more impressionable regarding sensationalized news stories, misleading headlines and deceptive, ‘click-bait’ articles which, in turn, facilitates the instantaneous, viral spreading of fake news. Individuals can be fooled into thinking their social media platforms are allowing them to become better informed citizens but they are, instead, being misinformed entirely. Fake news, which is a broad concept and can encompass various types of material, threatens democratic societies in new ways.[124]

It is gradually becoming recognised that the issue of fake news is a serious one and its worrying implications must be tackled and brought under control. There is plenty of regulation in existence regarding the press and broadcast media, and these measures have the importance of truthfulness reflected within them; however, the internet is one area for which control is limited. The internet is a unique space for which many of the existing mechanisms for control are simply insufficient. The freedom which internet users currently embrace and enjoy must be reined in through new initiatives and developments which will suit its nature.[125]

Having come to these conclusions, I moved to discuss various proposals for combatting the issue. Beginning with legislative developments, specifically the concept of an ‘Anti-Fake News Law’ or ‘Accuracy Act’, I focused upon the difficulties of legislating for cyberspace. These hurdles included the lack of geographical borders, the complexities of defining types of unlawful behaviour on the internet, and the issues with applicability and understanding. This type of law would not be effective without increased awareness and education into the issue of fake news and technological adaptations, which would encourage individuals to recognise its applicability.

Regarding potential technological developments, I discussed a number of recommendations made by those who contributed to the parliamentary inquiry. These included suggestions for verification marks, news reporting toolbars and ‘traffic-graph’ displays. The main issue, regarding these architectural changes, is the inevitable debate over the granting of authority to verify or not verify stories or sources, or the granting of powers to fact-check reported material.[126] For the chosen organisations to be trusted and relied upon they must have backing by government and for the mechanism to be acknowledged and used it must be adequately promoted and supported with explanations/instructions. As with new legislation, new technological mechanisms will not be effective in tackling fake news alone.

Finally, I discussed the importance of new initiatives for education on digital issues and funded campaigns into public awareness of the problem. This, in my opinion, is the most crucial of all developments towards achieving a regulatory solution. The public will not understand the applicability of a new law on online accuracy if they are not educated regarding the risks associated with fake news spreading. In the same way, an individual internet user cannot be expected to acknowledge or make use of a new function on their social media feed if they have no knowledge of the existence of a fake news problem. If, however, changes in law or architecture are made in partnership with major improvements to the levels of education and awareness, they can and will be worth the time, money and resources spent.

In conclusion, a ‘something must be done’ attitude is critical. It is inevitable that the issue will present new challenges to democratic societies in the coming months. This attitude, however, must not result in complacency with a decision to enact a new law or, alternatively, to place the responsibility upon social media websites or online news outlets to adapt their platforms. The time, money and resources spent on these will not be worthwhile as they cannot be sufficiently effective on their own. These changes must be made alongside government-funded campaigns into promoting awareness of the issue, and major initiatives for educating younger generations. This is what is required if there is to be any hope of tackling the fake news issue in the long-term.



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[1] For the sake of convenience, ‘Fake News’ will not be appearing capitalised or in quotation marks on every occasion, although it is a controversial term.

[2] A. Kaplan & M. Haenlein, ‘Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media’ (2010) 53(1) Business Horizons, 61.

[3] Pew Research Center, ‘Global Publics Embrace Social Networking’ (2010) <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[4] K. Purcell & others, ‘Understanding the Participatory News Consumer’ (2010) Pew Research Center Research Paper, <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[5] H. Kwak, C. Lee & others, ‘What is Twitter, a social network or a news media?’ [2010] ACM Digital Library, 591.

[6] ibid, 596.

[7] A. Hermida, F. Fletcher & others, ‘Share, Like, Recommend’ (2012) 13(3-6) Journalism Studies <> accessed 13 April 2018.

[8] J. Singer & others, Participatory Journalism (Wiley-Blackwell 2011).

[9] Reuters Digital News Report 2017, <> 10, accessed 11 April 2018.

[10] C.R. Sunstein, 2.0 (Princeton University Press 2007), 107.

[11] I. Pentina & M. Tarafdar, ‘From ‘information’ to ‘knowing’: Exploring the role of social media in contemporary news consumption’ (2014) 35 Computers in Human Behaviour, 211.

[12] J. Blom & K. Hansen, ‘Click bait: Forward reference as lure in online news headlines’ (2015) 76 Journal of Pragmatics, 87.

[13] C. Lee & L. Ma, ‘News sharing in Social Media’ (2012) 28 Computers in Human Behaviour 331.

[14] A. Diddi & R. LaRose, ‘Getting Hooked on News: Uses and Gratifications and the Formation of News Habits Among College Students in an Internet Environment’ (2006) 50(2) Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 183, cited in Lee & Ma (n 13).

[15] M. Ames & M. Naaman, ‘Why We Tag: Motivations for annotation in mobile and online media’ [2007] ACM Digital Library 971, cited in Lee & Ma (n 13).

[16] E. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn., Free Press 2003), cited in Lee & Ma (n 13).

[17] Hermida & Fletcher (n 7), 819.

[18] ibid, 822.

[19] O. Nov & others, ‘Analysis of participation in an online photo sharing community’ (2010) 61(3) Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 555, cited in Lee & Ma (n 13).

[20] M. Eslami & others, ‘Reasoning about Invisible Algorithms in News Feeds’ [2015] ACM Digital Library, 156.

[21] Sunstein (n 10).

[22] N. Negroponte, Being Digital (Vintage Books 1996).

[23] Sunstein (n 10), 6.

[24] ibid, 21.

[25] ibid, 69.

[26] Pentina & Tarafdar (n 11), 221.

[27] E. Pariser, The Filter Bubble (Penguin 2011).

[28] Upworthy, <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[29] Moveon, <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[30] Pariser (n 27), 10.

[31] ibid, 64, 74.

[32] ibid, 50.

[33] Pentina & Tarafdar (n 11), 215.

[34] J.V. Pavlik, ‘New Media and News: Implications for the future of journalism’ (1999) 1(1) New Media and Society, 54.

[35] Lee & Ma (n 13), 331.

[36] A. Marwick & D. Boyd, ‘Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience’ (2010) 13(1) New Media and Society 114, cited in Hermida & Fletcher (n 7).

[37] Kwak, Lee & others (n 5).

[38] UK Parliament, ‘Fake News’ Inquiry (2017) <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[39] ibid, FNW0010.

[40] ibid, FNW0016.

[41] ibid, FNW0114.

[42] ibid, FNW0053.

[43] L. Harriss & K. Raymer, UK Parliament POSTnote: ‘Online Information and Fake News’ (2017) <> accessed 17 April 2018.

[44] E.B. Laidlaw, Regulating Speech in Cyberspace (CUP 2015), 1-4.

[45] FNW0053 (n 42).

[46] U. Smartt, Media & Entertainment Law (2nd edn., Routledge 2014), 3, 11.

[47] European Convention on Human Rights, art.10.

[48] Smartt (n 46), 16.

[49] BuzzFeed, ‘Viral fake election news outperformed real news on Facebook’ (November 2016) <>, cited by National Union of Journalists (n 42).

[50] Sunstein (n 10), 1.

[51] ibid, 136.

[52] R.H. Knapp, ‘The Psychology of Rumor’ (1944) 8(1) Public Opinion Quarterly, 30.

[53] E. Barendt, Freedom of Speech (2nd edn., OUP 2005).

[54] Smartt (n 46), 12.

[55] ibid, 19.

[56] Laidlaw (n 44), 36.

[57] Government Inquiry Report, <> accessed 10 April 2018, and The Leveson Inquiry (National Archive), <>  accessed 10 April 2018.

[58] IPSO, <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[59] ibid, Editors’ Code, s.1.

[60] Ofcom has very recently opened seven new investigations into due impartiality of the RT news channel. See the update of 18 April 2018 at <> accessed 18 April 2018.

[61] Communications Act 2003, s.319.

[62] Barendt (n 53), 455.

[63] ibid, 455.

[64] Laidlaw (n 44), 116.

[65] T.J. McIntyre, ‘Child Abuse Images and Cleanfeeds: Assessing Internet Blocking Systems’ in I. Brown (eds), Research Handbook on Governance of the Internet (Edward Elgar 2013), 5.

[66] Cartier International AG v British Sky Broadcasting Ltd [2014] EWHC 3354 (Ch), Dramatico Entertainment Ltd v British Sky Broadcasting Ltd [2012] EWHC 1152 (Ch), Paramount Home Entertainment International Ltd v British Sky Broadcasting Ltd [2013] EWHC 3479 (Ch).

[67] ibid, 3.

[68] Chase v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2002] EWCA Civ 1772, [34].

[69] Defamation Act 2013, s.4.

[70] Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd [2001] 2 AC 127.

[71] ibid, 205.

[72] Jameel v Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl [2007] 1 AC 359.

[73] P. Mitchell, ‘The Nature of Responsible Journalism’ (2011) 3(1) Journal of Media Law, 19.

[74] J. Rowbottom, ‘Defamation Act 2013’ (The International Forum for Responsible Media, January 2014) <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[75] Smartt (n 46), 158.

[76] Tamiz (Payam) v Google Inc, Google UK Ltd [2012] EWHC 448 (QB).

[77] Bunt v Tilley [2007] 1 WLR 1243; [2006] EWHC 407 (QB), [36].

[78] Metropolitan International Schools Ltd v Designtechnica Corporation [2011] 1 WLR 1743, 1757; [2009] EWHC 1765 (QB), [50]-[54].

[79] Tamiz (n 76), cited in Smartt (n 46), 163.

[80] Godfrey v Demon Internet [2001] QB 201.

[81] HL Deb 15 January 2013, vol 742, col 189ff.

[82] C. Beaumont, ‘Mumsnet founders demand libel law reform’ The Telegraph (19 November 2010) <> accessed 17 April 2018.

[83] CG v Facebook Ireland Ltd [2016] NICA 54, [22].

[84] Barendt (n 53), 468.

[85] Negroponte (n 22), 7.

[86] ibid, 59.

[87] Smartt (n 46), 19.

[88] ibid, 598.

[89] A recent example is ‘IMAN FM’: a license revocation related to broadcast of dangerous, unchecked internet material which was religiously inaccurate and incited crime.
See the decision of Ofcom, 26 July 2017 at <> accessed 11 April 2018.

[90] A. Packard, Digital Media Law (Wiley-Blackwell 2010), 63.

[91] ibid.

[92] C. Reed, Making Laws for Cyberspace (Oxford University Press 2012), 8.

[93] European Commission, ‘Public consultation on fake news and online disinformation’ (November 2017- February 2018) <> accessed 18 April 2018.

[94] European Parliament (Text adopted), ‘Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market’ (Resolution 15 June 2017) <> accessed 18 April 2018.

[95] A. Murray & C. Scott, ‘Controlling the New Media’ (2002) 65 Modern Law Review 491, 502.

[96] A. Murray, The Regulation of Cyberspace: Control in the Online Environment (Routledge-Cavendish 2007), 203-204.

[97] Reed (n 92), 10.

[98] UK Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1982.

[99] Murray (n 96), 25.

[100] Reed (n 92), 14.

[101] ibid, 15.

[102] ibid, 23.

[103] L. Lessig, Code 2.0 (2nd edn, Basic Books 2006).

[104] ibid, 123-124.

[105] ibid, 132.

[106] Reed (n 92), 233.

[107] R.J. Deibert & N. Villeneuve, ‘Firewalls and Power: An Overview of Global State Censorship of the Internet’ in M. Klang & A. Murray (eds), Human Rights in the Digital Age (Glasshouse Press 2005), 111.

[108] Lessig (n 103), 121.

[109] ibid, 124.

[110] Parliamentary Inquiry (n 38), FNW0010, FNW0024.

[111] ibid, FNW0010, s.5.1.

[112] ibid, FNW0014.

[113] ibid, FNW0056.

[114] ibid, FNW0123.

[115] Lessig (n 103), 124.

[116] ibid, 130.

[117] Parliamentary Inquiry (n 38).

[118] ibid, FNW0024.

[119] ibid, FNW0029, s.3.

[120] ibid, s.8-9.

[121] BBC News, ‘BBC game challenges young people to spot ‘fake news’’, BBC Family & Education (14 March 2018) <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[122] BBC Live Lesson, ‘Sorting fact from fiction’ (22 March 2018) <> accessed 10 April 2018.

[123] Pariser (n 27), 50.

[124] Laidlaw (n 44), 1.

[125] Packard (n 90), 63.

[126] Parliamentary Inquiry (n 38).