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Singapore — Industry leaders discussed the growing responsibility of both the media and businesses in combating fake news during a panel discussion at the 2019 Milken Institute Asia Summit held at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Warren Fernandez, editor of The Straits Times; Ellana Lee, senior vice-president at CNN International; Gary Liu, CEO of South China Morning Post; and Maria Ressa, executive editor of Philippines news site Rappler comprised the panel discussion on the fight against fake news. The discussion was moderated by Jonathan McClory.

Fake news found its audience by repetitively targeting opinions at extreme ends of the spectrum. Facts are replaced with disinformation and skewed interpretations of actual events that catered to people’s preconceived biases.

Rappler executive director Maria Ressa cited how the big-data firm Cambridge Analytica used the Philippines as its “petri-dish” in spreading disinformation on Facebook which thus massively affected the credibility and outcome of the 2016 elections leading to severe consequences for the nation.

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She emphasised the importance of a countries having a “global compact” to battle with the “existential crisis” brought about by the rise of fake news.

“If you have no facts, then you can’t have truth. And if you don’t have truth, you can’t have trust. And If you don’t have trust, you have no democracy,” Ressa was quoted as saying in a report by The Straits Times.

CNN Ellana Lee stated the need for a clear definition of fake news since Trump casually throws the term to describe any information he dislikes or disagrees with.

Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez described fake news as “both a boon and a bane” since people are looking for more credible sources nowadays so professional media and news outlets are doubly responsible for delivering the truth.

“The opportunity for us in the media, is to really step up. We can’t do all this on our own. Businesses and governments and society will have to do their part. But what we can do is to go out and make a case to audiences about the role that professional newsrooms play,” Fernandez said.

In response to Singapore’s fake news law, Ressa said there is no cookie-cutter solution to manage Facebook’s operation across jurisdictions.

South China Morning Post CEO Gary Liu said that society has not even fully experienced the harm that fake news can bring to the economy.

He thus addressed business leaders to “start pricing the social impact of fake news” into their business decisions. -/TISG

SPH editor Warren Fernandez says new ways are needed to fund quality journalism

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