Pope Francis Talks Journalism Again, Calls Fake News ‘Virus’

Pope Francis took on fake news Wednesday and termed its spread “evil” while lauding institutional efforts to combat it.

In his message on World Communication Day, Pope Francis, who called for greater efforts to tackle fake news, said it was first created in the Garden of Eden when the serpent, according to Bible’s opening chapter, Genesis, lured Eve.

“This was the strategy employed by the “crafty serpent” in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news (cf. Gen 3:1-15), which began the tragic history of human sin, beginning with the first fratricide (cf. Gen 4) and issuing in the countless other evils committed against God, neighbor, society and creation.”

According to Pope Francis, interactions among like-minded people within digital environments, like social media, make unmasking and eliminating fake news difficult.

U.S. President Donald Trump has mentioned “fake news” more often than any other world leader in the recent past. Earlier this month, Trump announced “fake news awards” attacking critical reportage from his first year of presidency. Trump’s views on what constitutes disinformation are not undisputed.

Trump is now being blamed for increased use of the term by leaders across the world to allegedly target legitimate media outlets that publish or air warranted criticism, as suggested by a Reuters report. In his message, Pope Francis lauded institutional and legal efforts to tackle disinformation, but he did not specify which nations efforts are praiseworthy.

Reuters also reported the U.K. government’s plans to set up a security unit to tackle disinformation. Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said the unit would combat disinformation by state actors and outsiders. Like in the U.S., alleged Russian interference is reportedly at the heart of efforts to fight fake news in Europe.

Incidentally, like Trump, Pope Francis had also criticized fake news in the past when he termed it a “sin.” In his latest message and tweets, he urged promotion of what the pontiff called “journalism of peace,” which the head of Catholic Church explained was not the “saccharine kind” that refuses to acknowledge existence of serious problems.

Instead of the present-day media peddling “fake news,” Pope Francis envisioned a practice of journalism that serves as an alternative to the “escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence,” and that is “less concentrated on breaking news.”Instead, the news should be focused on exploring conflicts to contribute to their resolution.

According to CNN, many felt Pope’s latest communication was aimed at world leaders like Trump, though the Vatican described it as a message sent out to observe a decade’s-old custom of the Catholic Church.