Avoiding the Snares of Fake News

Before you share a story on social media, what impact does the story have on our community and our world? Could you be spreading fake news or as Pope Francis describes it: “false information based on nonexistent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader.”

Pope Francis warns about the dangers of fake news in his 2018 World Day of Communications Message that was delivered on Jan. 24.

The Holy Father says we should be on guard against those who seek to harm us with disinformation. “We need to unmask what could be called the “snake-tactics” used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place. This was the strategy employed by the “crafty serpent” in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news” (cf. Gen 3:1-15). – Pope Francis 2018 World Day of Communications Message

According to Pope Francis, fake news has these elements:

Subtly misleading rhetoric
Designed to deceive and manipulate reader
Appeals to stereotypes and social prejudices
Exploits emotions like anxiety, anger and frustration
Demonizes people and creates conflict
Leads to arrogance and hatred

Pope Francis asks all of us to spread a “Journalism of Peace” which has these elements:

Ensures accuracy of sources
Takes into account the service of all people, especially those without a voice
Explores underlying causes of conflicts
Promotes deeper understanding
Contributes to resolution
Explains virtuous process
Points out alternatives to shouting matches and verbal violence

To help support a Journalism of Peace, Pope Francis suggests we turn to Jesus in prayer. “Truth is something you can lean on, so as not to fall. In this relational sense, the only truly reliable and trustworthy One – the One on whom we can count – is the living God. Hence, Jesus can say: “I am the truth” (Jn 14:6).” – Pope Francis

Prayer

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.
Help us to remove the venom from our judgements.
Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.
You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world:
where there is shouting, let us practice listening;
where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;
where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;
where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;
where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;
where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;
where there is hostility, let us bring respect;
where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.

Amen.

To read the pope’s entire 2018 World Day of Communications Message, click here.