Is fake news a real problem or a phantom menace?
President Trump has railed against fake news, tweeting about it at least 140 times, conferring international cult status upon the term. Governments in countries as diverse as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Malaysia, the Philippines and India have taken legal action purportedly in an attempt to combat fake news. The impetus for these actions escalated after revelations about Russian attempts to influence elections in the United States and France by orchestrating the spread of fake news through social media.
Ultimately, legal tools should be limited to problems they can solve. Fake news is not one of these problems. The marketplace for ideas will ensure that true news trumps fake news. Tech companies soon will realize that if their platforms are perceived to be vehicles for the spread of falsehoods, they will suffer the same fate as mainstream media and subscribers will abandon them. This will incentivize them to devise tech solutions to filter out fake news and enable true news to rise to the top.
America’s constitutional commitment to free speech is founded on an ability to skeptically assess all received wisdom. This applies to all news — fake or real. People who consume information without critical thought cannot be rescued by law and free speech should not be sacrificed in an attempt to combat fake news. Leave the laws alone.