One of the biggest assets of journalists is their reputations. What if the adversaries try to harm a journalist’s reputation with spread of deliberate false information on the internet. Reporters Without Borders recommends journalists to take the following four steps to react professionally.
- Document and report: Journalists should document the false news and report it to major platforms like social networks or search engines. Adversaries need these platforms for distribution. It is worth the time to think carefully about the way journalists should report the content. And which rights are violated?
- Assess the impact: Journalists should not overreact when false information about them is spread. Does the information really cause harm? If an article only appears on page ten of a search engine and gets a few likes on social media, the best option probably is to ignore it. Only the comment on the false information by the journalists themselves could increase the reach. It might be the real aim of the adversaries. Is it worth worrying about?
- Make a statement and counter false information: If it is worth worrying about the impact of the false news, make a statement and counter it with facts. Journalists don't have to make it public. It might be enough to send this statement to relevant contacts like friends, colleagues and newsrooms that the journalists collaborate with.
- Think about legal action: If the information is obviously wrong and comprises wrong facts, the authors might have committed a crime. Journalists can take legal action against that, probably with help of a lawyer.