Jamaica’s ‘Fake news’ clampdown

- PM Holness says he will no longer be silent on use of social media to spread misinformation

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(Jamaica Observer)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated that his Government will be taking steps to begin clamping down on the proliferation of false information on social media platforms.

According to Holness, the widespread practice has caused a lot of confusion, even for some of the brightest people.

Addressing youth affiliates of his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) at Almond Tree Hotel in St Ann on Saturday, the prime minister implored the young people not to engage in spreading misinformation for political gains.

“Recently I became aware of a situation where a young man made a post on social media that borders on being defamatory and probably libelous. The person was tracked and identity discovered. The long and short of it is that the person was put up to doing this by a political organisation. We have been tracking several such cases and, when you dig into it, you discover that young people are behind these accounts. They are being recruited to do this,” Holness charged.

“They are being used to comment and post negatively, spread rumours on people, and do some really nasty things. We have been tracking, and you are going to see some action shortly. We have too many good news items and achievements that you need to promote without having to resort to attacking people. We deal with policies, programmes and principles. People who don’t have that attack people who do. People who don’t have good news, they spread bad news. Where there is no bad news they create falsehoods,” Holness said. He said he had been silent on the issue for a long time but will no longer be because of the potential for fake news to disrupt and negatively impact lives.

He lamented that the world has never had the capabilities as it does now to create and generate misinformation at a scale and speed that influences people who are rational and reasonable.

“It is now at a point where even degreed people who studied in the highest institutions of the land are not able to discern the nonsense that comes to their phones. They have to be calling me to ask if it is true. There is an entire industry called fake news and, if you fall for it, they say you should know better. A lot of people watch nonsense and rubbish and are not able to discern what it is. Everything that comes up on their screen, they take it as facts.

“Countries like Canada and the United States have taken steps to call in companies and say, ‘Listen, we see where your social media platforms have tried to influence our elections, and you have to moderate.’ They realise that it is creating a problem. It is an accelerant for conspiracies, and it is being used to mislead and misinform,” said Holness.

Holness wishes to lead Jamaica in a different direction by using the same means.

He implored the young people to use their electronic devices to counter the work of others who seek to carry out their evil deeds.

“I say to young people to, ‘Use it wisely. Use it with discernment. Not everything that is posted is true. Check and ask questions, and if it doesn’t go so, dismiss it.’ This isn’t an attempt to dull your voices, but it is now time to use your voices for the defence of truth — because their only intent is to try and trick people to get power,” said the prime minister.

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