Culture secretary urges public to use news websites in fight against big tech misinformation

Journalism is ‘our first line of defence’ against fake news, says Dorries

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 02 November 2021 02:10
<p>Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has urged the public to use newspapers and websites in the fight against misinformation</p>

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has urged the public to use newspapers and websites in the fight against misinformation

The culture secretary has called on the public to use trusted news sites in the fight against misinformation such as vaccine conspiracy theories.

Nadine Dorries praised the “properly-sourced, robustly-researched” work of journalists as “our first line of defence” against fake news such as Covid-19 “vaccine conspiracies” facilitated by tech giants.

In an article backing the industry’s Journalism Matters campaign, she said the government’s Online Safety Bill would “force tech companies to clean up their sites” and “prevent social media firms from arbitrarily taking down content from respected news organisations”.

The bill, she said, also includes “extremely important protections and exemptions for journalists, so that we can protect their free speech while forcing social media platforms to police their sites properly”.

Ms Dorries vowed a new competition unit would create an “even playing field” by ensuring big tech companies such as Google “do not abuse their dominance” over the news people see.

“In government we’re doing all we can to help back our brilliant journalists to go about their jobs without fear or favour,” she said.

“This week you can do the same – by picking up a paper or visiting the websites of our world-renowned news industry.”

However, Henry Faure Walker, chairman of the News Media Association, warned time was running out for some local publishers as he called on the government to rein in the BBC’s expansion into areas already covered by commercial outlets.

“The BBC needs to be prevented from rolling its tanks, funded by the licence fee, onto the lawn of the hard pressed independent local news sector,” he said.

“Be in no doubt, the BBC’s plans to expand its local news services in direct competition with commercial outlets would be hugely damaging for local journalism – and by extension local democracy.”

Ms Dorries used her opinion piece to highlight the government support given to the publishing industry, including a £35m public information campaign during the pandemic and extended business rates relief for local newspaper offices in England.

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