Wave of Fake News 'Fuelling Divisions' in Romania

An article published on Sunday by Agence France-Presse, AFP, claiming that fake news is flourishing in Romania and fuelling euroscepticism, has put the spotlight back on this phenomenon.

The AFP report said the Social Democratic-led government's attempt in January to weaken anti-corruption legislation unleashed a wave of protests that forced an about-turn by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu - but had also unleashed a wave of truth-stretching reports by pro-government broadcasters.

Romanian media experts say news websites and even some national TV stations routinely make up news stories, partly because Facebook brings in easy traffic while Google brings them advertising.

Journalists and activists say Romanian politicians also fuel the boom in fake stories with  so-called "alternative facts".

While Romania's audiovisual regulator, the CNA, has begun fining television stations airing fake and unverified news, civil society activists and programmers are trying to develop online tools to point out fake news sources.

The CNA received over 2,000 complaints in January and February alone, nearly 10 times the number in the same period in 2016.  

The body also fined several television stations for airing fake news or for allowing fake information on air without questioning the source.

News channel Romania TV was fined more than 6,000 euros for airing a fake video during the election campaign in 2016, which claimed that the demonstrators who brought down Victor Ponta's centre-left government in 2015 had been paid by wealthy philanthropist George Soros.  

Romania TV as well as another news channel, Antena 3, temporarily lost 70-80 of their advertisers in February during the anti-government protests for their biased coverage and for...

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