Misinformation / DML Prevalence: Italy
Some examples of high profile misinformation events in Italy include a project to educate high-school students on how to recognize fake news online, an online service launched by the Italian government to counter fake news, a warning by a regulator that 2017 was a year of fake news in Italy, allegations that a substantial number of ballot papers had been discovered in Sicily, a fake news story about a nine-year-old Muslim girl in Padua, fake polls in favor of Five Star Movement and a manipulated picture of Ms. Boschi. The details of the findings were entered into the project spreadsheet. Below is a deep dive into the stated events.
Education of High School Students to Enable them Recognize Fake News
- The Italian government launched an experiment in collaboration with leading digital companies including Facebook to train students on how to recognize fake news.
- According to Laura Boldrini, president of Italian lower house of Parliament, "fake news drips drops of poison into our daily web diet and we end up infected without even realizing it."
- She further said that it is only right to give the kids a way of defending themselves from the lies.
Online service to counter fake news
- The Italian government launched an online service for the public to report what they think is fake news for investigation.
- This came ahead of the 2018 general election when senior politicians were concerned that fake news could influence public opinion.
Warning by regulator on the fact that 2017 was a year of fake news
- The country's communications regulator, Agcom, warned about a rise in fake news and disinformation in the country.
- It stated that "2017 was 'the year of the emergence of pathological phenomena such as the so-called fake news'."
- At the time, social media was gaining ground as the population's means of staying informed with 7 out of 10 Italians using it for information purposes.
Fake News of Ballot Papers Discovered in Sicily
- A false story claimed that a substantial number of ballot papers had been discovered in Sicily as part of "a ballot-stuffing operation to favor the centre-left Democratic Party."
- The fake story was exposed in social media, but still attracted attention on the election day.
Fake News about a 9-year-old Girl in Padua
- Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini capitalized on a fake news of a nine-year-old Muslim girl in Padua who was said to have been hospitalized after being sexually assaulted by her 35-year-old husband.
- The story was officially denied and retracted by newspapers.
- However, Salvini condemned the story on Twitter, a post which was later removed, but the story brought immigration to the center of the March 2018 general election.
Fake Polls in Favor of Five Star Movement
- In February 2018, a number of Five Star Movement supporters shared a false poll that showed that the party was on track to receive 48% of the votes.
- A high-profile journalist, Enrico Mentana, denounced the fake poll on Facebook.
Manipulated Picture of Ms Boschi at a Funeral of Sicilian Mafia Boss
- Maria Elena Boschi, a government minister, and her colleagues attended a funeral of a Nigerian killed in a racist attack in July 2016.
- Later in November 2017, Ms Boschi's photo at the funeral was circulated on social media with claims that she had attended the funeral of Toto Riina, "the notorious 'boss of all bosses' of the Sicilian Mafia.