Editorial: A call for more information accountability

The good news is that real news is still valued. The bad news is that many of the new news conduits continue to shirk any responsibility to ensure the information they aggregate and distribute has integrity.

And they are generating multibillions in revenue doing it while the organizations that invest in gathering sourced and verified information are drowning in red ink as their revenue sources dry up.

Time to shoot the messenger, or at least apply some scrutiny to the messages being delivered.

A recently released U.K. government report details the damage to economic and political fundamentals resulting from Facebook’s and other major social media companies’ absence of information accountability as they exploit user data for financial and political gain.

As the International Grand Committee’s final report into disinformation and “fake news” notes, “among the countless innocuous postings of celebrations and holiday snaps, some malicious forces use Facebook to threaten and harass others, to publish revenge porn, to disseminate hate speech and propaganda of all kinds and to influence elections and democratic processes – much of which Facebook, and other social media companies, are either unable or unwilling to prevent.”

Meanwhile, as Canada’s Senate has pointed out, while annual internet revenue in the country grew to $5.5 billion in 2016 compared with $901 million in 2006, advertising revenue for daily newspapers in Canada sank to $1.6 billion from $2.7 billion.

This is far more than a matter of propping up traditional news media that have failed on many fronts to meet the challenges of a digital information revolution.

It is a matter of ensuring standards of news, information verification, transparency and distribution accountabilityare applied to the companies that profit from the delivery of information but, as the U.K. report notes, have been allowed to “expand exponentially, without constraint or proper regulatory oversight.”

Profitability without accountability is as corrupting to the profiteers as it is to the marketplace.