U.S., France take different approaches on combating disinformation

WASHINGTON –The U.S. and France, like many Western countries, are fighting disinformation campaigns from foreign countries, mainly Russia, but their policy approach to combat the problem are markedly different – the U.S. focuses on voluntary efforts to help people distinguish correct information from disinformation, while France has instituted new regulations on the news media.

America and France have such different approaches against disinformation because there is a fundamental difference between the two countries: attitudes toward freedom of speech.

“You have different traditions in the U.S. and France when it comes to freedom of speech,” Nicolas Tenzer, a founding president of the Center for Research and Study on Political Decisions in Paris, said. “In France, [advocating that the] Holocaust never existed — it’s forbidden by law. You cannot be a Holocaust denialist … whereas, in the U.S., you can say anything. It’s a huge difference.”

Tenzer said media literacy is “not enough” to prevent disinformation.

However, UNESCO supports the push for media literacy. “Media information literacy is very important,” Andrea Cairola, an adviser of the Communication and information at UNESCO sector, said. Media literacy builds critical thinking of citizens to act as informed voters and players in society.

In the United States, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has proposed a measure to provide $20 million to help schools educate students on how to identify misinformation and disinformation. But it has not come to a vote in the Senate.

“We [America] still don’t know what to do about disinformation, said Timothy Carney, resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and columnist at the Washington Examiner. “Most of the burden is going to fall on the platforms of media outlets, such as Facebook or Twitter, I think that for Congress, state or local governments to get involved in this point would be a mistake.”