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British Government Bans Phrase ‘Fake News’ in Official Documents

Emily Ward
By Emily Ward | October 24, 2018 | 4:46 PM EDT

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The government of the United Kingdom has banned the use of the term “fake news” in official documents, according to the Telegraph.

Instead, ministers in Parliament will have to settle for either “misinformation” or “disinformation.”

“While ministers may speak freely in the House of Commons, any strategy documents referring to election meddling or internet safety will need to use the new definition,” the Telegraph reported on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

In a July 29 report that investigated the impact of “fake news” on democracy and elections, British officials of the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) argued that the term “fake news” had no “agreed definition,” and recommended that the British government “reject” the phrase.

“The term ‘fake news’ is bandied around with no clear idea of what it means, or agreed definition. The term has taken on a variety of meanings, including a description of any statement that is not liked or agreed with by the reader,” the DCMS wrote.

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“We recommend that the Government rejects the term ‘fake news,’ and instead puts forward an agreed definition of the words ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation,’” the committee wrote, adding that the change would create a “consistency of meaning” that could be used as “the basis of regulation and enforcement” among companies, organizations and the government.

The report by the DCMS prompted a response from the British government, which stated that “fake news” is a “poorly-defined” and “misleading” term.

“We agree that ‘fake news’ is a poorly-defined and misleading term that conflates a variety of false information, from genuine error through to foreign interference in democratic processes,” the British government wrote.

In its report, the DCMS noted that “fake news” was an ambiguous term which could refer to “fabricated content,” “manipulated content,” “imposter content,” “misleading content,” “false context of connection” or “satire and parody.”

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The term “fake news” has become popular among various government leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump. Just two days ago, on Oct. 22, Trump tweeted, “The Fake News Media has been talking about recent approval ratings of me by countries around the world, including the European Union, as being very low… I say of course they’re low – because for the first time in 50 years I am making them pay a big price for doing business with America. Why should they like me? – But I still like them!”

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