Two of the world’s largest media businesses, Facebook and Google, are working to roll out technologies designed to stop fake news stories and could soon release these into the Canadian market. The issue, which was well publicized during the 2016 American presidential election, also happens in Canada. In December 2016, the conservative leadership candidate’s campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, posted false information about the government simply to aggravate voters. Kouvalis’ story was a list of foreign aid money that the current Canadian government was reckoned to have sent overseas, which he Tweeted. The message showed that the Canadian government had made a significant donation to the terrorist group, Hamas.
Both Facebook and Google are developing systems and technologies designed to help people determine if a news story is accurate or not. Facebook has reported that it is in the early stages of testing what it describes as a toolbox to help users and journalists to check the authenticity of a story. Meanwhile, Google has built in a “fact check” tag into news pages, which is designed to give readers confidence that the news story has been checked for accuracy. However, both companies agree that putting systems and procedures in place to stop fake news is very difficult, with Facebook calling the battle a “slippery slope.” Although Google have said not publicly discussed bringing the fact check feature to Canada, an anonymous Google employee explained: “We’re actively working to bring this feature to Canada in the near future.” We are unable to verify this fact, because the source at Google explained he was not authorized to make a statement about the technology.
Canada’s Heritage Minister, Melanie Joly, wishes to engage with social network and media managers. She wishes to investigate how or if the Canadian government can help stop the spread of false news stories as part of a widescale review of the media designed to measure media integrity, which is a project started in December 2016 after the widespread false news reports issued during the American presidential election. Canada’s heritage committee chairman, Hedy Fry, explains: “We saw what happened in the United States... The United States woke everybody up.” However, Fry also noticed that there “are no easy ways” to make sure that Canadian citizens read authentic news stories without restricting the freedom of the press.