The meaning of “fake news” has become polluted since the term became Donald Trump’s preferred way of describing any piece of information that paints him in an unfavorable light, so here’s a refresher: Just a year ago, “fake news” was what we called the spread of intentionally false, sensational stories on social media. This played out most infamously during the 2016 presidential election, as groups with connections to the Russian government used misinformation on Facebook, Google, and Twitter to try to sway American voters.
But “fake news” and Russian influencers aren’t a uniquely American problem, so Full Frontal’s Amy Hoggart traveled to Finland to talk to Director of Communications Markku Mantila about how the country is fighting back.
Oddly enough, the Finnish government hired American consultants to help them combat fake news, including Adam Berinsky of MIT’s Department of Political Science. While Berinsky insists that his advice is not a cure—at best he says he can advise governments “how not to make things worse”—he did train Finnish officials to stop the spread of fake news. One strategy is to avoid repeating false claims, even when denying their veracity, because it could spread those lies even further.
Now Finland is actively combating fake news by educating the public and politicians, even teaching students how to read news critically in schools. Finland’s president also spoke out, encouraging citizens to be skeptical about information found online. “So step one for America is: Get a new president,” noted Hoggart. She later asked Mantila, “Do you think you’re better than us?”
He replied, without even a moment’s hesitation: “Yes.”