Special Investigation into Fake News Is “Unprecedented” Says Newhouse School Associate Dean
Joel Kaplan, associate dean for professional graduate studies and professor and acting director of online master’s in communications at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, reacts to news that the special prosecutor team will be investigating the Russian-connected social media trolls and bots that were responsible for fake news that boosted the Trump campaign.
“The decision by the Special Counsel’s office to expand its Russian collusion investigation into the area of ‘fake news’ is a fascinating and unprecedented criminal inquiry over whether purposefully using social media to disseminate false information about one’s opponent could lead to criminal charges,” says Professor Kaplan.
“As everyone knows, the phenomenon of fake news has grown exponentially with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets that allow anonymous trolls to spread false and damaging information. There is very little that can be done about this, though if the spreaders of the fake news can be identified, they may face civil liability in the form of libel or invasion of privacy lawsuits,” Kaplan says.
“But now, this new inquiry indicates that the spreaders of disinformation, particularly those who collude with foreign hackers, may actually face criminal charges,” says Kaplan. “It would be the supreme irony that the president of the United States, who has falsely and repeatedly accused respected media outlets of spreading fake news, might see his own friends, relatives and allies jailed for actually doing just that.”
Professor Kaplan is available to speak to media about this issue. He can be interviewed via email/phone/Skype/LTN studio.
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