eye-1686932_1920The British government has officially opened an inquiry into “fake news.”  Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee investigating, summed it up: “The growing phenomenon of fake news is a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general.”

Now British publishers have responded.  The newspaper group News Media Alliance is advocating regulation of Facebook and Google, including the potential for licensing fees for using newspaper content, according to Fortune.

Fake news is a “growing cause for concern around the world, with implications for an informed electorate and democracy itself,” the group said in its letter to the committee.

One way to help insure accuracy would be to pay for it. “The NMA would be happy to explore licensing schemes… to ensure that publishers’ investment in news is adequately recognized,” the letter said.

As talk of fact-checkers on Facebook has surfaced, I’ve wondered why companies would do that for free.  Facebook takes all the content that others generate, makes money off of it, and then abdicates any responsibility to make sure the content is legit… and then asks other companies to do the work for it to make sure it’s not fake.

While the service is needed, it shouldn’t be a free ride.  Some European news organizations, particularly in Germany, have pushed back against Facebook, asking for payment for fact-checking.

“Just as major tech companies have accepted they have a social responsibility to combat piracy online and the illegal sharing of content, they also need to help address the spreading of fake news on social media platforms.” – Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee

Prior attempts in European counties to get Google to pay for news have mostly failed.  In Germany, Google stopped providing links to news stories where fees were required.  Traffic to news sites plummeted.  Google shut down the Spanish version of Google News when Spain passed laws requiring licensing fees, forcing some publishers to close up shop from a lack of visitors.