2018 News Digital Media Viability Lab

Is legislation the best solution for dealing with fake news?

Within the “Fake News and Media Viability” conference that is being held today in Beirut, organized by Maharat Foundation and Deutsche Welle Akademie, a session was held that about the issue of laws and legislations aiming at answering two main questions: are laws and legislations the best solutions for fighting disinformation? And what are the risks on freedom of expression in case of governmental interference?

This session was moderated by Nizar Saghiyeh, the executive director of Legal Agenda, during which experts discussed the procedures that has been taken around the world, with a focus on the effect of disinformation on elections.

Saloua Ghazouani Oueslati, the MENA director of Article 19 in Tunisia talked about the governmental control on sources of information and legislations at the same time. She emphasized the importance of freedom of expression as a priority in our region, saying that counting on legislations to limit fake news will endanger freedom of expression and won’t be efficient in limiting disinformation.

Mikko Salo, the founder of Faktabaari (FactBar) and member of EU High-Level, considered that what we are dealing with today is disinformation on the internet which means wrong and inaccurate information that causes intentional harm and aims at gaining profit. He stated that the European Union are trying in the draft laws related to fake news to avoid censorship and promote transparency, and the EU don’t see the laws as the most effective way to fight fake news stressing the fact that solutions start in raising awareness and promoting critical thinking and giving platforms the opportunity of fact checking.

The lawyer Tony Mikhael, the legal expert at Maharat Foundation tackled this issue from a legal point of view. He talked about the Lebanese publication law and the audio visual law that convict the publication of any fake news aiming at causing harm in media, but these laws did not include the social media as they were adopted before the rise of such platforms. Mikhael also tackled the issue of imprisoning activists and bloggers using the vague texts of the current laws, and talked about the current electoral law that bans the promotion of fake news during electoral campaigns only.

At the end of the session, participants raised their questions and exchanged opinion, thoughts, and experiences in media.