In the morning, at 6:30, it appears "on sources" and exclusively on profit.ro the news that the government busy (and not in a good way) in the fight against misinformation. We quote from the article:
The Government's communications team has asked public relations departments in all ministries, in a joint e-mail message (details below), to appoint a representative to the working group and to come by Friday, March 11, with comments on narratives and keywords included in search engines and analysis parameters. According to the proposals submitted, the first of the word combinations that will light red light bulbs of possible misinformation and Russian propaganda in the algorithms of the platform is the one that would associate, in the same text, the Government, Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca or President Klaus Iohannis with a context of "corruption" or "Incompetence", having as a marker of misinformation expressions such as "mess" (mizerie) or "theft" (furtișag). For the investigative press, for example, any article that reported acts of corruption, incompetence or other deficiencies in the Executive would make the author suspicious of being an agent of Russian propaganda in the algorithms of the platform. Likewise, any similar blog post or social media post.
In a few hours, the reactions will appear: from Global Focus, here, one of the NGOs mentioned in the article, but also from the Government, here, which dismisses the project and says that it is, in fact, initiated by civil society.
"The government is open to cooperation with civil society representatives as long as the result of the cooperation is in the interest and benefit of the citizen. The initiatives of NGOs and media experts will generate recommendations in the field of combating misinformation and false news. The activity of the group is independent of the functioning and structures of the Government, the products received will be analyzed and, eventually, capitalized. The project is initiated by civil society, and the Government has not requested the monitoring of any specific deadline. ", said the Government.
We are generally skeptical of government initiatives to combat misinformation through censorship, as past actions (such as those in the pandemic) have shown a lack of understanding of the phenomenon. Whether we like it or not, we need to be able to cooperate with governments, so we really want them to give us reasons to trust them, which has been too rare in the last ten years since we have been active as an NGO. It would not be difficult to do so - they could, if they wished, be transparent and involve civil society in consultations, before making such decisions, which are poorly communicated in public and create controversy at times. in which we need unity and trust in each other.
We apreciate ActiveWatch's reaction, who honestly acknowledge their mistake and put the situation in context. The authorities can also learn that it is not a shame to say "I was wrong", that we are human beings and errre humanum est.
We are also outraged by the way they handled this scandal of the creation of the Ministry of Truth, especially in the context in which we know how catastrophically, we say again, catastrophically, they communicated in the last two years of the pandemic. for example), Yes, misinformation will be more and more serious, it is a modern weapon of war. No, the government does not have the will to do much in this area - it has shown us by what it has done so far.
We therefore agree with the open letter below, which we relay in full:
The signatory organizations and journalists urge the Government not to establish the "Ministry of Truth" in the name of protection against misinformation and, regardless of who initiates it, to be careful of its democratic implications.
According to a news article published by profit.ro, The Government of Romania, together with the Department for Emergency Situations and civil society organizations, is collaborating to create an IT platform dedicated to identifying fake news and sources of misinformation and propaganda in the context of the war in Ukraine.
The platform would operate on the basis of "markers" - combinations of words that would indicate elements of pro-Russian propaganda. From the information in the public space, this category could include journalistic materials, but also posts on social networks or blogs, which draw attention to the acts of corruption or incompetence of the authorities.
We consider that such an initiative is unacceptable and that it poses a major risk to the freedom of expression of Romanian citizens in general, and especially of journalists who expose problems in society. The information in the public domain shows a deep misunderstanding of the role that governments must play in the fight against misinformation. In addition, the determination of narratives and words through an arbitrary process, done in a hurry and without a transparent methodology is extremely dangerous.
We draw the attention of the rulers that "marking" the critical discourse of society against the authorities as enemy propaganda is part of the repressive tools of authoritarian governments and puts Romania at risk of becoming the very anti-democratic society that the rulers claim to want to fight.
The democratic slippage that the existence of such a platform entails is very dangerous. There is no recipe after which a misinformation can be automatically identified. And the labeling as "fake news" of any inappropriate content is already a phenomenon in Romania as well.
The role of the authorities in a democratic state is not to increase the level of information censorship, but to govern responsibly and wisely, taking action for the benefit of the citizens it represents. And most importantly, to protect their freedom, in all its forms, even when they do not personally agree with it.
We understand the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves and the obvious need to protect the public information space, but this protection must be done differently than by creating an online platform and starting a "witch hunter". There is a need for authorities to communicate promptly, coherently and transparently in crisis situations and beyond, to provide information when requested and not to have to hide their incompetence and corruption by reducing the number of "critical" materials to rulers.
Any action that may restrict freedom of expression and impose certain restrictions in the name of combating misinformation must be carried out transparently and with the utmost responsibility on the part of all the organizations involved. It is the right of any organization to carry out its activities in office, but once it decides on a government mechanism, the whole process must be carried out with maximum transparency.
- Centrul pentru Jurnalism Independent
- Funky Citizens
- Expert Forum
- Comunitatea Declic
- Factual.ro project
- Sindicatul Roman al Jurnaliștilor – MediaSind
- Codruța Simina, Misreport
- Oana Despa, Buletin de București
- Ana Poenariu, reporter RISE Project
- Bianca Albu, Buletin de București
- Dragoș Stanca, Upgrade 100
- Venera Dimulescu, Scena9
- Andreea Dogar, greatnews.ro
- Anamaria Nedelcoff, Buletin de București
- Florin Râșteiu, Buletin de București
- Simona Cârlugea – Buletin de București