As we see elsewhere, the threat of new technologies or services is sometimes met head-on in Spain. The taxi drivers and the hoteliers both angry with their new competitors Uber and Airbnb, and both able to do something about it (by which we mean, talk to the legislators). Another business that is fearful of new forms of competition is the daily newspaper. This, again, thanks to technology. Why read one source (for a euro fifty), with much bulk that is inevitably left unread anyway, when you can read as many sources as you want, of things that interest you, on your computer or Smartphone, for free?
Along comes at least two major tactics from the ‘dailies’ (who are, of course, themselves large corporations). First we have the attempt to close down – or at least wound – those smaller news providers who use links in the reports (you can’t use links in the printed media, rather obviously). The Spanish ‘dailies’, joined together into the AEDE – the Asociación de Editores de Diarios Españoles – has leaned on their friends in the Government to impose the notorious ‘Google Tax’, whose only victim so far has been Google News, an aggregator which sends readers to the original source! For the moment, this measure against other sites has been bounced by the Supreme Court, but the AEDE is keen to try again, as they don’t want the competitors drawing ever-more readers away.
But, what of ‘Fake News’? Here is The Telegraph: ‘Fake news was not a term many people used 18 months ago, but it is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the Western order’. Gracious! One should move to ban this terrible menace – maybe by creating laws! An enthusiastic initiative to do precisely this comes from the PSOE as reported in El País: ‘Spanish Socialists propose measures to curb online fake news’.
It is said that the Brexit vote, or Trump’s victory or the Independence movement in Catalonia, were all aided by fake news from Russia. Others say that on the contrary this is merely another case of fake news, or better still, ‘disinformation’. The Catalonian story of endless lies and provocations provided by fiendish Russian bots was investigated by a group called Transparency Toolkit and printed in a British parliamentary report which concluded that some of the items reported by the Spanish constitutionalist press were themselves planted by El País and others.
The report on fake news says: ‘...In some cases, there may be a temptation to use groundless allegations of fake news to support political arguments. Disinformation is not a technique unique to Russia, Venezuela, or any one country or group. It is necessary to explore how claims of fake news can themselves be used as a manipulative tactic and understand the impact this has on society’.
The Spanish national TV may also be guilty of manipulation, as the RTVE is investigated in the European Parliament this week, looking to see if ‘...the principles of objectivity, plurality and impartiality are observed’ in their news services as they must be under European law.
Fake News (we ignore joke news sites like El Jueves and El Mundo Today) may turn out to be little more than a Trojan horse, used to silence other news-sites, allowing (one can dream) for the resurgence of the traditional news-services – the daily newspapers, the major radio and TV channels. After all, corporations do not like competition.
Business over Tapas editorial 26 April 2018