Pope Francis launches campaign to fight ‘fake news’

Man reads Italian newspaper in Rome, Oct. 21, claiming Pope Francis has a benign brain tumor. The Vatican spokesman said claims that the pope has a tumor are "entirely unfounded." (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Given the strong divisions sparked and fueled by "fake news," Pope Francis is highlighting the importance of truth in his message for World Communications Day.

The message will call for studying the causes and consequences of baseless information and will promote "professional journalism," which always seeks the truth and therefore peace and understanding in the world, the Vatican Secretariat for Communication said, announcing the theme.

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"'The truth will set you free': Fake news and journalism for peace" will be the theme of the church's celebration of World Communications Day 2018. The day's theme is announced every year on Sept. 29, the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

The theme Pope Francis chose "relates to so-called 'fake news' -- namely baseless information that contributes to generating and nurturing a strong polarization of opinions," the announcement said. "It involves an often misleading distortion of facts, with possible repercussions at the level of individual and collective behavior."

With so many key players in the world of social media, internet and politics beginning to face the phenomenon, it said, "the church, too, wishes to offer a contribution."

The pope's message for the day will propose "a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media," and it will try to help "promote professional journalism, which always seeks the truth, and therefore a journalism of peace that promotes understanding between people."

Most dioceses will celebrate World Communications Day 2018 on May 13, the Sunday before Pentecost. The Vatican will release the pope's message for the observance Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.

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