Share article:
Share article:

Ministers attack social media making money from fake news

© PxHere

Two federal government ministers have attacked social media that persist in allowing misinformation to be published via their channels, and in some case actually profit from it, De Tijd reports.

The comments come from home affairs minister Pieter De Crem (CD&V), whose responsibilities include the police; and from minister for telecommunications Philippe De Backer (Open VLD).

In times of a coronavirus epidemic and enforced confinement, certain interests both commercial and political see an opportunity to profit by publishing misinformation, false advertisements and conspiracy theories often bordering on hate speech.

In recent weeks warnings have come from civilian and military intelligence and the anti-terrorism office OCAD about misinformation online, specifically planted by extreme right and extreme left, jihadists, Russia and other foreign interests.

The federal police force has a section dedicated to seeking out fake news online and attempt to have it removed.

In reply to a question from senator Stephanie D’Hose (Open VLD), minister De Crem explained the problem.

“The section has been instructed to focus on the detection of fake news published on the internet related to the coronavirus. That content is automatically reported to the platforms by submitting a removal request,” he said.

Up to March 30 this year, the section had discovered and reported 231 cases of fake news, in addition to 16 websites that publish such content.

“But the section has no power of enforcement against the social networking platforms and can only request removal. The platforms are not obliged to comply.”

The same question went to minister De Backer.

“The major online platforms continue to generate revenue with disinformation and harmful content about the pandemic,” he replied.

“Examples include hosting online advertisements on pages that misrepresent migrants as the cause of the virus, promoting false treatments, or spreading conspiracy theories about the virus.”

He did note, however, that the same platforms have been instrumental in raising public awareness of the World Health Organisation, as well as the Belgian government website on the coronavirus.

“It is Kafkaesque that as a government we use resources and people to detect fake news about the coronavirus, if we then have no idea whether anyone who offers his platform to distribute fake news is actually doing anything about it,” Senator D’Hose commented.

“Social media also have their share of the responsibility. Certain clickbait models encourage the dissemination and production of fake news. We also need to focus more on developing signalling or warning mechanisms for readers.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Belgian investigator wins prestigious US prize
Olivier Hardy, an investigator with the federal police’s anti-terrorist unit in Brussels, DR3, received on Friday a "Top Cop" prize in Washington for ...
Pegasus Project: European Parliament awards journalism prize to investigation of use of spyware
The Daphne Caruana Prize for Journalism was awarded on Thursday to the journalists from the Pegasus Project coordinated by the Forbidden Stories ...
Belgians can now test their knowledge of driving rules and win prizes
The Walloon Road Safety Agency (AWSR) launched on Friday a quiz to allow the general public to test their knowledge of the highway code. Last year, ...
600 extras wanted for film about Belgian ‘Porn King’ and notorious Antwerp nightclub
A Belgian movie telling the story of a notorious Antwerp nightclub with connections to a Belgian 'Porn King' is looking for 600 extras at the end of ...
Namur Marathon relaunches after two years on hold
The next edition of the Namur Marathon will take place on April 24, 2022, its organisers announced on Friday, as they also opened registrations. ...
Lidl goes on strike: Half of supermarkets in Belgium closes on Saturday
One in two Lidl shops remained closed on Saturday morning, Lidl spokeswoman Isabelle Colbrandt said. Staff have been on strike for several days to ...
€220 million: Largest ever lottery prize in Europe won in France
A record-breaking €220 million Euromillions jackpot was won on Friday by a player in France, the French gaming authority (FDJ) has announced. The ...
Antwerp exhibition shows first photos after city bombed in 1944
An open-air exhibition in Antwerp will show off never before seen photos as part of a commemoration of the first V-bomb to hit the city, 77 years ...
Daily Covid infections up by almost 30% in Belgium
Between 6 and 12 October, an average of 2,438 people were infected with the Covid-19 virus every day, according to figures from the Sciensano public ...
Asylum centre in Brussels goes on strike on Monday
A 24-hour strike will take place on Monday at the Petit Château center for asylum seekers in Brussels, De Tijd newspaper reported on Saturday. The ...
European Parliament wants to sue the European Commission
In a rare move on Thursday, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted for the Parliament to take the European Commission to court ...
Mayor wants to close two Brussels bars where alleged sexual assaults took place
Ixelles' Mayor Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo) said that he’d like to close the two bars that employed a man accused of raping multiple patrons, ...