“Fake news” is not just a problem of misleading or false claims on fringe websites, it is increasingly filtering into the mainstream and has the potential to be deeply destructive.
My recent analysis of more than 500 public submissions to a parliamentary committee on the launch of 5G in Australia shows just how pervasive misinformation campaigns have become at the highest levels of government. A significant number of the submissions peddled inaccurate claims about the health effects of 5G.
These falsehoods were prominent enough the committee felt compelled to address the issue in its final report. The report noted: “community confidence in 5G has been shaken by extensive misinformation
preying on the fears of the public spread via the internet, and presented as facts, particularly through social media.”
This is a remarkable situation for Australian public policy – it is not common for a parliamentary inquiry to have to rebut the dodgy scientific claims it receives in the form of public submissions.
While many Australians might dismiss these claims as fringe conspiracy theories, the reach of this misinformation matters. If enough people act on the basis of these claims, it can cause harm to the wider public.