US midterm elections

Does Finland have the answer to fake news?

Just read this article on BBC news. It is an intersting angle on the fight for trustworthy news. It makes you think that the world is going backward. Perhaps we should just shut down the internet and rewind to the good old days!

Lesson plan

  1. Read this article and discuss the following; how does this align with your perception of how the different countries can tackle this complex topic.

As the midterm elections approach in the US, the wave of false claims surrounding the vote is a reminder of how hard it is to combat fake news. Does Finland have the answer?

A few hours after Vladimir Putin called up 300,000 military reservists in September, a video showing long queues of cars at the Finnish-Russian border started circulating on social media.

The Finnish Border Guard was quick to point out it was fake.

“Some of the videos were filmed earlier and now taken out of context,” it said on Twitter. The tweet promptly made it to the top of the Ukraine live page on national broadcaster Yle’s news website.

The Border Guard’s and Yle’s response highlights a crucial element of Finland’s success against disinformation – public trust in the authorities and the media.

Finland is a high-trust society. According to an OECD report, 71% of the Finnish population trust the government, compared to the OECD average of 41%.

And it’s not just the government – parliament, the civil service, the police and the media all enjoy high levels of trust.
Bar chart for media literacy in countries

That does not mean Finns believe everything they read in the papers and never look at social media for information. But when they do, most have the ability to critically evaluate information.

That shield against disinformation is being sorely tested in the US as the midterm elections approach.

More than ever, the spotlight is on the so-called fake news problem and the real-world consequences it can have.

Despite the increased focus on tackling false and misleading claims on social media, including from the tech giants themselves, disinformation is still seeping through the cracks.

Misinformation and the midterm elections

For the BBC’s Americast podcast, we created social media accounts belonging to five fake characters, who reflect views from across the political spectrum in the US.

One character in particular – Populist Right Britney – has been recommended pages on social media that continue to promote disinformation that Trump really won the 2020 election, as well as a range of conspiracies.

Progressive Left Emma, on the other hand, has been more likely to encounter more radical activism – some that includes violent rhetoric but that stops short of conspiracy.

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