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Digital Subscriptions > iScot Magazine > February/March 2019 > Fake news! Fake democracy!

Fake news! Fake democracy!

By Peter A Bell

IN OCTOBER last year, the British government decreed that the term ‘fake news’ would no longer be used by ministers or officials. The stated reason was that it is “a poorly-defined and misleading term that conflates a variety of false information, from genuine error through to foreign interference in democratic processes”. One might readily suppose that another, and perhaps more likely, reason is that they didn’t want to sound like Donald Trump.

Which is fair enough. Nobody wants to sound like Donald Trump, do they? There’s a real problem here, though. How do you discuss a phenomenon - far less regulate it or legislate for it - if there is no clear common understanding of what the phenomenon is. At least partly because of Trump’s habit of plastering ‘fake news’ labels over anything that is even mildly critical of himself or his candidacy or his presidency, the term came to be used for everything from satirical comedy sketches to serious instances of purposeful disinformation - foreign and domestic.

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