2019.04.08,

Critique

Are Fakes Really So Terrible?

author_posts/samvel-martirosyan
Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

All of us already know that the government has begun a battle against fakes. And the National Security Service (NSS) has spread its wings and has dived into that case. It didn’t take one day after Pashinyan’s assignment and the page admin is already in the hands of the law enforcement officers.  

It was a question of long discussions as to how guilty the admin of the given page is. But, in this particular case, let the court give the answer if it gets to that point. Let us consider the issue more widely. Issues, rather.

  1. Is a fake a completely negative phenomenon?

  2. Should the NSS be dealing with fakes?

In Armenia, the idea that a fake is quite a negative phenomenon is a rooted opinion. In fact, not only in Armenia. Many of the world’s leaders today are shouting that fake news destroys national security, affects election results and so on.

Social networks use intricate settings. For example, Facebook, in other countries where there will be elections this year, will toughen the conditions for placing paid advertisements. Laws are being changed in different countries. Fighting against fakes today is one of the latest and most active topics in the world. North Korea is probably the only country which is more or less calm about the matter.  

However, as soon as it comes to regulations, a question arises, what is fake news?

Let’s agree that the borders are blurry. News can be completely accurate, and the title manipulative. Or maybe the last sentence can be a lie. And dozens of such opportunities., And yet we have to prove the tendency, understand the motive: is there a criminal, or human, global stupidity?

Fake new is not a good thing in itself, even if it wasn’t done with a specific intent. But let us look at fake users, whom we call in Armenia with a short word, “fake.” Is being fake a bad thing? Actually, no.

Moreover, being a fake with many international documents, and by other formulations, being anonymous, anonymity is encouraging and considered one of the fundamental principles of freedom of speech in the new era.

For example, you can watch the UN Special Report on Freedom of Speech and Press. Here’s a separate chapter devoted to online anonymity and encryption.

This is only an example. It is obvious that today’s world requiring that a person is registered on social networks with a passport, as in some cases Facebook can do as well as governments in a number of companies, is at least strange.  

There are many reasons why people are not exposed to them: The person is shy, they don’t want that their parents or relatives read what they write, the person is a public official but wants to express their opinion freely. There are dozens of such reasons. And each one is respectable.

On the other hand, we all know that there are directed fake attacks at the public level. Whether they are organized by Baku authorities, or because of our internal political scandals, it is evident that such cases of cause public damage, often serious damage.  But you cannot fight against such fake attacks by labeling everyone left and right “fake.” And publicly deprive people of their right to be anonymous online.

As to the NSS’s involvement in this issue, I think the NSS should be the last one to fight against fakes, but never the first.

If the NSS starts an anti-anonymity campaign and starts applying means for that, it would be a bigger blow to democracy than the theoretical benefit that might come from it. 

The NSS must act in extreme and truly dangerous cases.

There are many other tools available for the rest of the cases: professional media support, public awareness and education, development of a clear information concept by the government and its awareness, etc.

The “bad” fakes will often dry up and fall on their own if the state structures act more efficiently and skillfully in the information field.

Putting the NSS into action is not a good thing. Not only in terms of democracy and freedom of speech. For the same NSS this can become a professional trap: to catch simply all the fakes you may need to use your entire intelligence resource, which, I think, is needed in other and more important fronts.

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.


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