There is a difference between censorship and accountability. The intentional act of swearing a false oath or of falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth is already a well documented crime. There is a reason society has determined this to be necessary -- it is harmful to civil society. As proscriptions against slander and liable have emerged over time to address wrongs in society, we need a new element in the law that combats intentional, harmful, or negligent deceit.
We must confront the reality that the intentional or negligent act of creating or advancing untruth (and/or selective truth) in the guise of reporting whole truth is also harmful to civil society.
Fake news is a sticky hairball that transforms even the most intelligent, well-intentioned people into deceitful reprobates. Fake news is short term individual gain at the expense of long term social pain. Every untruth that is contrived and/or propagated diminishes us as a whole. The sooner we (collectively) reach a tipping point of understanding that untruth in all its forms is a net negative, the sooner we can stop bitching about specific rotten trees and start practicing good forestry.
Of what kind of society do we wish to be a part?
- I want a society where I don't feel the need to advantage myself with untruths. I want a society where all untruth is shunned and even the "little white lie" is heart-wrenching and demoralizing.
- I want a society where "news" is differentiated from "opinion." I want a society where "news" is the whole truth; not a sensational sound-bite.
I believe that fake news is a crime against civilization and society. I believe those who use fake news to harm individuals, groups, or society as a whole should be punished and/or rehabilitated.
Let us be clear... This is not an American problem nor a Russian problem nor a Chinese problem nor an Indian problem. This is not a Christian problem nor a Muslim problem nor a Jewish problem nor a problem of non-Abrahamic systems of faith or practice. This is not a Liberal problem nor a Conservative problem nor a problem for the rich or poor. This is not a problem for academics, laborers, financiers nor hard working house-spouses. This is a problem for all humanity... it is a test of our humanity.
We as global citizens must demand better in a global information age, lest we suffer the consequences of our unwillingness to stand up against a tyranny of deceit. We must demand better from the Platonian Philosopher Kings that reign over technology and media and, if necessary, hold them accountable as purveyors of deceit. We are living Toffler's FutureShock. We must be as determined to die for the truth that we find discomforting as we are that which comforts us -- because deceit is the mothers milk of tyranny and suffering -- because the fight for truth is noble, righteous, and just.
Perhaps some cultures may need to cut out the tongues of those convicted of speaking falsehood. Perhaps some cultures need to cut off fingers and hands of those convicted of writing falsehoods. For my culture, the sooner we can try and punish criminal deceit and litigate tortious deceit for compensatory and punitive damages -- the sooner we will rediscover news with integrity and journalism that uplifts society. Any crime against society must be met with a level of barbarity such that none in that society dare transgress. We stop being civilized if we abdicate truth.
Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami. (pali)