Jimmy Wales: Fake news “a quantum leap we should be very concerned about”


Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales speaking at Westminster Media Forum, April 2018. Credit: Daniel Bruce

“The advertising-only business model has been incredibly destructive for journalism,” said Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales at a Westminster Media Forum event on Thursday 26 April 2018 in London that looked at “fake news”.

“We need to resolve the incentives so that it makes sense and is financially sustainable to do good news,” Wales added.

Wales cited examples of false news stories that had been published on the Mail Online, such as an article featuring a projection of a perfect horizon in Beijing, erected as a way to compensate for the pollution, which proved fake, and a story claiming the Pope supported Donald Trump. He said the Daily Mail of 20 years ago was different. While not what he would choose to read, he thinks there is a place in the media landscape for tabloids, but one running fake news is “a quantum leap we should be very concerned about”.

Suggesting alternatives to advertising-only models, Wales said the Guardian’s donation request box (which he admitted he had consulted on) was an excellent example of how a media organisation can earn money without compromising standards. Meanwhile, a total paywall was very beneficial for some media, in particular financial media, with those readers valuing inside knowledge on the markets, though it would not suit all (the Guardian’s Snowden files, for example, were information he said he would want everyone to be able to access at the same time).

Wales’s concerns about the advertising-only, clickbait-style media models were echoed by others throughout the conference. Drawing an impressive panel of industry experts across media, law and tech, they all united in the view that while fake news meant a myriad of things to many different people, and was not something new, it was nevertheless problematic. Mark Borkowski, founder and head of Borkowski PR, spoke of the 19th-century great moon hoax and how “everything is different and everything is the same” before adding: “The speed at which we expect to get information, without proper fact-checking, is a plague.”

Nic Newman from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism proposed different ways for media to gain more trust, of which “slowing down” was one. Richard Sambrook, former director of global news at the BBC and now director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University, said the rise in the number of opinion pieces over evidenced-based journalism was because they were cheaper to commission.

Better education about what constitutes good quality, reliable media was another solution proposed.  

“Audiences need better education and sensitivity around algorithms,” said Kathryn Geels, from Digital Catapult.

Katie Lloyd, who is development director at the BBC’s School Report and who runs workshops around the country educating school children into news literacy, said there was a sense of urgency and confusion when it came to the topic and that teachers feel like it really needs to be taught.

“Young people are on the one hand savvy and on the other not so much and need extra help,” said Lloyd, adding that of those children she had interacted with, most knew what fake news was in principle, but not how to spot it.

“When we started talking to teachers they said they didn’t have the tools and the skills to teach it,” she added, tapping into a point raised by head of home news and deputy head of newsgathering at Sky, Sarah Whitehead, who said media education was just as important for older people as it was for the young, as the world of online was not the domain of only one group.  

Lloyd also explained that diversity was essential when it came to who was delivering news as people were more likely to trust news from those they could relate to. This was in response to an audience member saying they had spoken to school children who expressed that they respected news on Vice over the BBC. Lloyd agreed that it was essential for news organisations to have a wide range of people in terms of age and background. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1524822984082-ad9d065c-d104-5″ taxonomies=”6564″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Risky business: Journalists around the world under direct attack


The truth is in danger. Working with reporters and writers around the world, Index continually hears first-hand stories of the pressures of reporting, and of how journalists are too afraid to write or broadcast because of what might happen next.

In 2016 journalists are high-profile targets. They are no longer the gatekeepers to media coverage and the consequences have been terrible. Their security has been stripped away. Factions such as the Taliban and IS have found their own ways to push out their news, creating and publishing their own “stories” on blogs, YouTube and other social media. They no longer have to speak to journalists to tell their stories to a wider public. This has weakened journalists’ “value”, and the need to protect them. In this our 250th issue, we remember the threats writers faced when our magazine was set up in 1972 and hear from our reporters around the world who have some incredible and frightened stories to tell about pressures on them today.

Around 2,241 journalists were killed between 1996 and 2015, according to statistics compiled by Cardiff University and the International News Safety Institute. And in Colombia during 2015 104 journalists were receiving state protection, after being threatened.

In Yemen, considered by the Committee to Protect Journalists to be one of the deadliest countries to report from, only the extremely brave dare to report. And that number is dwindling fast. Our contacts tell us that the pressure on local journalists not to do their job is incredible. Journalists are kidnapped and released at will. Reporters for independent media are monitored. Printed publications have closed down. And most recently 10 journalists were arrested by Houthi militias. In that environment what price the news? The price that many journalists pay is their lives or their freedom. And not just in Yemen.

Syria, Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq, all appear in the top 10 of league tables for danger to journalists. In just the last few weeks National Public Radio’s photojournalist David Gilkey and colleague Zabihullah Tamanna were killed in Afghanistan as they went about their work in collecting information, and researching stories to tell the public what is happening in that war-blasted nation. One of our writers for this issue was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan in 1990s and remembers how different it was then. Reporters could walk down the street and meet with the Taliban without fearing for their lives. Those days have gone. Christina Lamb, from London’s Sunday Times, tells Index, that it can even be difficult to be seen in a public place now. She was recently asked to move on from a coffee shop because the owners were worried she was drawing attention to the premises just by being there.

Physical violence is not the only way the news is being suppressed. In Eritrea, journalists are being silenced by pressure from one of the most secretive governments in the world. Those that work for state media do so with the knowledge that if they take a step wrong, and write a story that the government doesn’t like, they could be arrested or tortured.

In many countries around the world, journalists have lost their status as observers and now come under direct attack. In the not-too-distant past journalists would be on frontlines, able to report on what was happening, without being directly targeted.

So despite what others have described as “the blizzard of news media” in the world, it is becoming frighteningly difficult to find out what is happening in places where those in power would rather you didn’t know. Governments and armed groups are becoming more sophisticated at manipulating public attitudes, using all the modern conveniences of a connected world. Governments not only try to control journalists, but sometimes do everything to discredit them.

As George Orwell said: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Telling the truth is now being viewed by the powerful as a form of protest and rebellion against their strength.

We are living in a historical moment where leaders and their followers see the freedom to report as something that should be smothered, and asphyxiated, held down until it dies.

What we have seen in Syria is a deliberate stifling of news, making conditions impossibly dangerous for international media to cover, making local news media fear for their lives if they cover stories that make some powerful people uncomfortable. The bravest of the brave carry on against all the odds. But the forces against them are ruthless.

As Simon Cottle, Richard Sambrook and Nick Mosdell write in their upcoming book, Reporting Dangerously: Journalist Killings, Intimidation and Security: “The killing of journalists is clearly not only to shock but also to intimidate. As such it has become an effective way for groups and even governments to reduce scrutiny and accountability, and establish the space to pursue non-democratic means.”

In Turkey we are seeing the systematic crushing of the press by a government which appears to hate anyone who says anything it disagrees with, or reports on issues that it would rather were ignored. Journalists are under pressure, and so is the truth.

As our Turkey contributing editor Kaya Genç reports on page 64, many of Turkey’s most respected news outlets are closing down or being forced out of business. Secrets are no longer being aired and criticism is out of fashion. But mobs attacking newspaper buildings is not. Genç also believes that society is shifting and the public is being persuaded that they must pick sides, and that somehow media that publish stories they disagree with should not have a future.

That is not a future we would wish upon the world.

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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”From the Archives”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”94291″ img_size=”213×289″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03064228208533353″][vc_custom_heading text=”Afghanistan in 1978-81″ font_container=”tag:p|font_size:24|text_align:left” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fjournals.sagepub.com%2Fdoi%2Fpdf%2F10.1080%2F03064228208533353|||”][vc_column_text]April 1982

Anthony Hyman looks at the changing fortunes of Afghan intellectuals over the past four or five years.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”94251″ img_size=”213×289″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03064228208533410″][vc_custom_heading text=”Colombia: a new beginning?” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:24|text_align:left” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fjournals.sagepub.com%2Fdoi%2Fpdf%2F10.1080%2F03064228208533410|||”][vc_column_text]August 1982

Gabriel García Márquez and others who faced brutal government repression following the 1982 election.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”93979″ img_size=”213×289″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03064228408533703″][vc_custom_heading text=”Repression in Iraq and Syria” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:24|text_align:left” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fjournals.sagepub.com%2Fdoi%2Fpdf%2F10.1080%2F03064228408533703|||”][vc_column_text]April 1983

An anonymous report from Amnesty point to torture, special courts and hundreds of executions in Iraq and Syria. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Danger in truth: truth in danger” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:24|text_align:left” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indexoncensorship.org%2F2016%2F05%2Fdanger-in-truth-truth-in-danger%2F|||”][vc_column_text]The summer 2016 issue of Index on Censorship magazine looks at why journalists around the world face increasing threats.

In the issue: articles by journalists Lindsey Hilsum and Jean-Paul Marthoz plus Stephen Grey. Special report on dangerous journalism, China’s most famous political cartoonist and the late Henning Mankell on colonialism in Africa.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”76282″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/05/danger-in-truth-truth-in-danger/”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Subscribe” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:24|text_align:left” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indexoncensorship.org%2Fsubscribe%2F|||”][vc_column_text]In print, online. In your mailbox, on your iPad.

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Student reading lists: journalism and censorship

Much of Index on Censorship’s global work involves allowing censored journalists an outlet to publish articles which may be unpublished in their home countries. This reading list, focusing on journalism, looks at issues surrounding freedom of expression and press freedom. It includes articles from Professor Emily Bell on the tools moving journalism forward and Professor Richard Sambrook’s reflection on the murders of journalists around the world that go unnoticed.

Students and academics can browse the Index magazine archive in thousands of university libraries via Sage Journals.

Journalism and censorship articles

Student reading lists

Censorship in the arts
Comedy and censorship
Journalism and censorship
Ken Saro-Wiwa
Minority groups and censorship
Threats to academic freedom
About the student reading lists
Technology and censorship

Explosion of independent journalism by Stefan Bratkowski

Stefan Bratkowski, April 1987; vol. 16, 4: pp. 17-18

A message from Warsaw to the London censorship conference from a dissident

Back to the future by Iona Craig

Iona Craig, September 2014; vol. 43 , 3: pp. 8-12

Award-winning foreign correspondent Iona Craig discusses the growing need for journalist in war zones to go back to old ways of ignoring surveillance

The spirit of journalism by Ocak Isik Yurtcu

Ocak Isik Yurtcu, March 1997; vol. 26, 2: pp. 99-103

An imprisoned Turkish journalist, serving 15 years for anti-terror charges, discusses his experiences

Generation Why by Ian Hargreaves

In Index’s special report on the future of journalism, Ian Hargreaves considers whether the next generation of journalists will work with the public to hold the powerful to account

Users + Tools = Journalism by Emily Bell

Emily Bell, November 2007; vol. 36, 4: pp. 100-104

The Guardian’s Emily Bell on how technology is shaping the future of news and what editors need to do to adapt

Print Running by Will Gore

Will Gore, September 2014; vol. 43, 3: pp. 51-54

Another one from the special report on journalism, The Independent’s Will Gore looks at journalistic innovation

Re-writing the future: five young journalists from around the world by Ahlam Mohsen, Katharina Frick, Luca Rovinalti, Athandiwe Saba and Bhanuj Kappal

Ahlam Mohsen, Katharina Frick, Luca Rovinalti, Athandiwe Saba, Bhanuj Kappal, September 2014; vol. 43, 3: pp. 18-19

Five young journalists, from Yemen, South Africa, Germany, India and the Czech Republic, share their hopes for the profession

In quest of journalism by Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen, May 1997; vol. 26, 3: pp. 81-89

Michael Foley interviews New York University’s professor of journalism, Jay Rosen

Attack on ambition by Dina Meza

Dina Meza, September 2014; vol. 43, 3: pp. 30-33

Human rights campaigner and Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award’s nominee Dina Meza talks about the situation in Honduras where young journalists are entering a profession rife with corruption and fear

Journalists are dying every day by Richard Sambrook

Richard Sambrook, March 2015; vol. 44, 1: pp. 101-102

Professor Richard Sambrook delivers a morbid account of how the deaths of journalists around the world are going unnoticed

The reading list for journalism and censorship can be found here

Words and Deeds: Incitement, hate speech and the right to free expression

This collection was prepared for the EU NGO Forum that took place on 8-9 December 2005 and revised in 2006.

At the end of the Maastricht summit in l992, the Council of Ministers reported on what they saw as a paradox of history: that racism had increased as democracy had spread through the post-communist world. Not such a paradox really. As Hans Magnus Enzensburger once said:‘With democracy, all the dirt comes out.’

Index believes that free expression is the freedom on which all others are based. Ronald Dworkin famously said in its pages that free speech is what makes people feel human, makes them feel their lives matter. But we also need to be clear about our fierce defence of free expression – that there are prices to be paid for it – and we need to be clear about the cost, and who is paying it.

Hate speech – abusive, dehumanising, inciting discrimination and violence – is an integral part of the ‘dirt’ that goes with democracy, often directed at ethnic minorities, gays or women. It is certainly the most troubling matter for people who believe in free speech, and there has been fierce debate over the years about that difficult borderline between free speech and the demand for equality of respect – not least in the pages of Index on Censorship over its 33 years of existence.

But then, on 11 September 2001, the world changed, and hate speech acquired another, newer relevance. The ‘war on terrorism’ (a war that may never end, according to US Vice President Dick Cheney) put civil liberties under threat worldwide. And since then the right to free expression has too often become a fragile filling, sandwiched between the imperatives of security and fears about acts of terrorism. In these dangerous times, hate speech is centre stage, and the ways in which we respond to it are crucial to our future.

The importance of free expression is as great as ever, as is the need to debate openly difficult issues – ones which may cause pain, offence, anger. Nobody ever said free expression was easy. Index’s purpose is to do its small part in creating a world in which the right to speak for oneself becomes the condition for allowing those who speak antagonistic moral languages to hear each other. We hope Words & Deeds will play its part.

Ursula Owen
former Editor in Chief, Index on Censorship
December 2005

With essays and contributions by:

RONALD DWORKIN A new map of censorship
TOM STOPPARD Is there ever a time & place for censorship?
ARYEH NEIER Clear & present danger
VALERIU NICOLAE Words that kill
REMZI LANI Hate speech & hate silence
OLEG PANFILOV The rebirth of nationalism
HANEEN ZOUBI Follow the tune, relay the message
JONATHAN FREEDLAND Where the lines are drawn
MARTIN ROWSON A classic Stripsearch cartoon from Index on Censorship
SARFRAZ MANZOOR Thou shalt not give offence
KENAN MALIK Are Muslims hated in Britain?
AGNÈS CALLAMARD Striking the right balance
ANTHONY HUDSON Free speech & bad laws – what can be done?
AMIR BUTLER Warning from Australia: don’t legislate against hate
MARY KENNY When speech became treason
PAUL OPPENHEIMER In the name of democracy
DD GUTTENPLAN Should freedom of speech extend to Holocaust denial?
AIDAN WHITE Journalism & intolerance: setting standards for media action
RONALD KOVEN Put your own house in order first
RICHARD SAMBROOK Think what you say
KENAN MALIK Say what you think