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Pope warns of the snake-tactics of the fake media

VATICAN (Agencies): Fake news grabs people’s attention “by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration,” Pope Francis writes in his message for World Communications Day 2018 which was released at the Vatican on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.
 
Given the strong divisions sparked and fuelled by fake news, Pope Francis highlights the importance of truth. In his message, the pope calls for promoting “professional journalism,” which always seeks the truth and therefore peace and understanding in the world. 
 
The message proposes “a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media.”
 
The pope notes that fake news is so effective because it mimics real news but uses “non-existent or distorted data” to deceive and manipulate. He goes on to say that in the modern world, with the rapid and viral spread of news and information—both real and fake—lives and souls are at stake, because the “father of lies” is the devil.
 
Pope Francis points out that the first to employ the fake-news tactic was the serpent in the Garden of Eden who convinced Eve she would not die by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. The bible story shows that “there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences.”
 
The pope praised educators who teach young people how to read and question the news and the information they see presented on social media. He encouraged efforts to develop regulations to counter fake news and he praised tech and media companies for trying to improve ways to verify “the personal identities concealed behind millions of digital profiles.”
 
However, he insists, individuals always will have the final responsibility for discerning what is real news and what is helpful to share on social media. “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” like the serpent in the Garden of Eden did.
 
Those who re-post or re-Tweet such false information, become “unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas,” the pope says.
 
Pope Francis ends his message with his own adaptation of the Prayer of St. Francis for both those who report the news and those who read or watch it. 
 
Where there is shouting, let us practice listening
Where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity
Where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust
Where there is hostility, let us bring respect
Where there is falsehood, let us bring truth
 
World Communications Day will be celebrated on May 13, the Sunday before Pentecost with the theme, ‘The truth will set you free’: Fake news and journalism for peace.

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