Skip to main content

A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone on May 2, 2013.

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Two of the world's biggest digital information platforms say they're getting ready to roll out tools in Canada designed to crack down on so-called "fake news."

The phenomenon of false or misleading information being widely disseminated online became a major storyline in the U.S. presidential campaign, which culminated in the November election of Donald Trump.

It's also been happening in Canada: Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch's campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, has admitted posting false information about the Trudeau government in an effort to draw out left-leaning voters.

Story continues below advertisement

Early last month, Kouvalis tweeted a list of "billions" of dollars Justin Trudeau's Liberal government had supposedly given to international aid organizations in the last year, including $351 million for the designated terrorist group Hamas.

He later admitted the information was false, telling Maclean's magazine that he posted it "to make the left go nuts."

Both Google and Facebook have been testing online tools in the U.S. and the U.K. aimed at helping users identify credible information posted on their web portals.

And they say they expect to provide similar tools to Canadian users soon.

Google has incorporated a "fact-check" tag into some news pages to help readers find fact-checked content in large stories.

"We're actively working to bring this feature to Canada in the near future," said a source at Google who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

Facebook said it was still in the early stages of testing, tweaking and rolling out tools to combat fake news.

Story continues below advertisement

"It is still early days, but we're looking forward to learning and continuing to roll this out more broadly soon," said Facebook spokesman Alex Kucharski.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said she wants to speak with social network and media managers to see what, if anything, the government can do to ensure Canadians are viewing reliable information when they search the Internet.

But it's too early to speculate on policy options, said a spokesman for the minister, noting that ensuring the integrity of news and information on the web is part of the government's wider review of the media landscape.

"We want to engage with digital platforms on the matter," said Joly's press secretary Pierre-Olivier Herbert.

In December, the federal heritage committee began studying ways to curtail false news as part of a broader study looking into the future of media in Canada and the impact of digital technology on journalism.

Over several months, the committee repeatedly heard from witnesses who raised the issue, said committee chair Hedy Fry.

Story continues below advertisement

"We saw what happened in the United States," said Fry. "The United States woke everybody up."

During the U.S. presidential election campaign, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton pointed out that false news on the Internet had become a danger to human life.

She was talking about "Pizzagate," a phoney election story that prompted a North Carolina man to open fire with an assault rifle inside a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. No one was injured and the man was charged with assault with a weapon.

Ridding the Internet of misrepresented facts is a complex issue, Fry noted, saying there are no easy ways of ensuring Canadians get verifiable facts without impacting freedom of the press.

The committee is expected to report its findings to the government in the spring.

Barack Obama told his final news conference as president that the divisions in the U.S. gives fake news more traction.
Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.