Thought Leadership

Armela Imeraj
The globalization and commercialization of fake news

By Armela Imeraj, General Director of the Albanian Telegraphic Agency and one of the international panelists on the conference “Disinformation Policy – a threat to Stability in the Modern World”

This statement is delivered by our Diplomatic Council Partner Diplomat Magazine

Just last week, the biggest Azeri investment in the World, Trans Adriatic Pipeline started its final phase of construction in Albania, the one when the pipeline will be laid below the Adriatic Sea.

In a great paradox of our times, while our sea has become a new horizon for collaboration and new opportunities, the “fake news” sea has become a threatening problem that endangers many of the achievements of democratic countries, particularly when it comes to new and delicate democracies like those in the Eastern Europe or the Balkan Peninsula.

The globalization and commercialization of fake news are serious issues. The things that are supposed to be helping people connect and enable understanding are becoming tools for creating chaos and influencing unjustifiably behaviors.

With the help of the internet and translation, foreign governments, state actors or a group of skilled individuals are able to influence the affairs of another state. Through the collection of social media data and translation, there are companies that are able to offer fake news as a global product that can be instrumental in political campaigns and many other issues.  And there’s no doubt that the propagators of fake news are clever and crafty. They know how to muster rights and freedoms as their defense.

We have an expression in Albania that goes “a lie has short legs”, in the sense that it’s short lived, but thanks to social media and ghost portals, this is no longer true. Fake news can circulate and recalculate for entire months in the network and the state’s ability to stop this phenomenon is limited.

NASA confirms that the Earth will have 15 days of darkness, Trump will remove the Statue of Liberty because it encourages emigrants, the EU will sentence to 3 years in jail those who cheat on their partners or the news that circulated in Albania that George Washington had an Albanian origin are just some of the most infamous examples of fake news in the world.

However, while such jokes only aim to monetize, other fake news have a much more malicious purposes.

The recent news about the death of the famous Greek director Kostas Gavras, which was reported even by well-known agencies like Associated Press or New York Times goes to show nowadays, nobody, is immune to fake news. When such things happen even in the most developed countries, our countries are definitely much more exposed to such a phenomenon.

For a number of reasons, starting from the level of education to the fact that many of our citizens are not very accustomed to technology on the same level as in the West, the Balkan countries, according to evidences of “Annual Index of Media Literacy” are the most threatened countries in Europe by the distribution of fake news.

That is why I think the Public News Agencies should take upon themselves a much more active role in fighting false information. Collaboration between news agencies should be replicated as much as possible all over the globe. Besides international fake news, another concerning source of false information is domestic or local fake news. My conviction is that News Agencies should create independent structures, able to unmask in real time fake news. Every time fake news attempt to spread havoc in our societies we can do what most of the news portals don’t, facts check the information from the respective sources.

The ultimate goal of this change is that by establishing a gold standard, gradually, in each of our countries a network of trustworthy media can be established, which despite their editorial policies and personal interpretation of the news, can be able to report the truth always and in a credible manner.

It is imperative for our countries to understand that “fake news” is neither a local nor an isolated phenomenon.

This is a global battle, a battle for our freedom and as such it’s a precondition that our countries should prepare a global response.

I say battle for our freedom because I see this as a threatening tool to our basic right, which is freedom of information.

That’s why everyone needs to get involved, governments, NGOs, academics and above all common citizens.
For now, it’s difficult to determine what is the best solution to fake news but what’s certain is that everybody needs to get involved and that we should stop making the same mistakes of the past.

For example, in 1675, Charles II of England issued a new “proclamation for the suppression of coffee houses” because “divers’ false, malicious and scandalous reports are devised and spread abroad”. The king declared that “coffee houses be… put down and suppressed”. The attempts to control today’s fake news through contemporary equivalents of the suppression of the coffee house are I think misguided and dangerous.

We need new platforms and new channels where everybody can play a role in obliterating fake news.

Me alone cannot tell you which solution to win this battle. However, I am convinced that this is a battle we can win. Fake news distributors started this race with a clear advantage, as our countries and societies were not prepared to cope with this phenomenon.

However, our disadvantage is getting smaller and smaller every day.


About the author: Armela Krasniqi is the General Director of the Albanian Telegraphic Agency. Armela Krasniqi, was one of the international panelists on the conference “Disinformation Policy – a threat to Stability in the Modern World” at the 6th Humanitarian Forum of Baku, an event that through the years has managed to shape an answer for many of the issues that concern the global society nowadays.