Fake news, “quality and authoritativeness of information to contrast its diffusion”

Hello Andrea, how do you frame the phenomenon of fake news in the historical moment we are experiencing but also more generally in the period that preceded Covid19?

Fake news on social networks fly, especially at the time of the coronavirus: they have very low costs, high profitability and therefore allow easy revenue, both commercial and political. Today they can be used by anyone, just having a certain number of followers and being able to involve important names, because the human soul is more willing to believe in bad news, rather than good news.

But where does this phenomenon originate from your point of view and what evolution has it followed in recent years?

It certainly doesn’t come from social networks, but historically we have to go back to the 16th century with the Gazzettieri, so it’s not a phenomenon these days. Fake news is only an evolution, in particular with the birth of Internet 2.0 it seemed that the end of journalism could occur, because anyone could make the news and the newspaper seemed to gradually lose the power of guarantee of information. Today the newspaper returns to nourishing appreciation from the public, unlike what seemed to be the trend 10-15 years ago.

So there is more demand for authoritative interventions?

The proliferation of fake news has led to the necessary resumption of the authoritativeness of the role of quality journalistic information: there is greater listening to television and radio, the public recognizes journalism as a type of certified, authoritative, serious and professional information. Think of the “novax”, who fed on fake news by circulating false news on social media about the damage caused by vaccinations: today they no longer exist, nor could they have the least space in the debate. We are therefore witnessing a return of confidence towards historical newspapers.

So how does the control take place to maintain high competence and confidence in the magazine?

There are the facts, the news and the stories “, Andrea continues,” facts and news are considered hard news and as such must be given and checked in the source, while the stories, in addition to the control of the sources, require discretion and can deal with the news also in vertical containers such as “crime”, economic or otherwise, political for example. In Mediaset we have, in fact, three types of journalists: who works on the facts, who on the news, who on the stories. All our conductors are generally journalists and therefore guarantors of the quality of the topics covered.

Are there tools to counter fake news?

Is there a national coordination that unites public and private in the fight against the phenomenon or does each broadcaster act independently? The Mediaset Group has aired a commercial where other groups’ newspapers are also present, because the seriousness of journalism implies that there is a responsible director and an editorial staff that controls what happens. There is coordination, see that between Assolombarda, Confindustria, FIEG, all entities that include publishers and journalists themselves.

And how do we put it with the control of sources in the days of social media?

Today the profession of journalist is even more risky and difficult: if you make a mistake, you pay heavily in terms of credibility and trust. That’s why perhaps a historical paradigm of journalism is overturning today, that is, to be first on the news. Maybe it’s better to finish second, but with certified news: on TV it’s easier, because there are the canonical times of the news, everything becomes more difficult on the web “.

Quality, trust are recurring terms, but is it only the result of the period we live in?

We said that it becomes necessary to bring the quality of the news guaranteed by the newspaper and the publisher to the center. If you are authoritative and certified, the news is looking for you: just think of user generated content (UGC), which prefer notoriety through an authoritative news site rather than an anonymous site because they know they are rewarded and that the news will not be dispersed in the web.

So investors and brands benefit from this tension towards credibility?

Of course, this also applies to brands that return to guaranteeing product quality. Mediaset has always supported the messages of brands whose value chain is guaranteed. At this time, only brands are able to duly trace the controls of the supply chain as far back as zero kilometer. We have seen companies that have primarily dealt with employees, who have converted part of their production towards the production of masks. And these are companies and brand manufacturers that need the quality of the schedule and the news.

Andrea, to close, the phenomenon of virality of fake news, exactly like a virus, has reached its peak or should we expect its presence even more massive?

The answer is very simple: fake news will certainly never end, but today it is easier to identify them, because we have more journalists and we are more able to track them. Viral marketing has been a concept included in textbooks for 15 years and until last year we attributed a positive value to it. Fake news are congenital in the system, but it will be easier to discover them, highlighting the purpose, that is, profitability, revenue, low-cost political consensus. It is much easier to put a post on the net for a politician than to convene a thousand, ten thousand people in a square for a rally.