Trump Fake News: U.N. Rapporteur Says President Is 'Worst' Peddler of Misinformation in America

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion said that Donald Trump was the "worst" offender in the United States when it came to the spreading of misinformation. David Kaye told Digital Rights Monitor in an interview that governments were a significant part of the problem in the creation misleading content.

"You know, governments are putting out false information," Kaye said. "I mean, in my own country, the United States, the worst perpetrator of false information is the President of the United States. So one thing is, how do we deal with government "fake news"—if you want to call it that, but propaganda is a better phrase for it."

Read more: Psychologists discover what type of person is most likely to believe fake news

This is not the first time that a senior U.N. figure has called out Trump over this issue. In August, the outgoing U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told The Guardian that Trump's calling out the media as "fake news" and "the enemy of the people" could lead to harm being inflicted on journalists and potentially encourage self-censorship.

One of Trump's most prominent cries of "fake news" came only a day after the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting, when the president accused the media of doing "everything in their power" to blame Republicans and him for the "division and hatred in the country.

"Actually, it is their Fake and Dishonest reporting which is causing problems far greater than they understand!" the President tweeted after the shooting that left 11 people dead.

In the Digital Rights Monitor interview, Kaye—a professor of law at University of California, Irvine, who has held the U.N role since 2014—suggested that journalists around the world had an important role to play in combating fake news, while also noting that they faced unique pressures.

"So on that front, I think journalists need to be covering it. And again that's hard for people in societies where you face all sorts of threats. You need to do it [but] it's time consuming; it takes away from other reporting you might do, and when you do it you can come under pressure from the government or other actors."

Kaye also said that internet companies and social media platforms, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, should move away from trying to police content and instead focus on tackling bots and spam accounts.

"The platforms, I think, can do things that are more technical as long as they are not evaluating content," Kaye said. "They can't just zap it and say, 'This is fake news, it's off the platform.' But they can do things like identify how long [has] this Twitter account been in effect? Was it created three hours ago? Well then, maybe it should be restricted. Are those followers bots?"

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President Donald Trump makes a video call to service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard stationed worldwide from the Oval Office on December 25. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion said that Donald Trump was the “worst” offender in the United States when it came to the spreading of misinformation. Zach Gibson-Pool/Getty Images
Trump Fake News: U.N. Rapporteur Says President Is 'Worst' Peddler of Misinformation in America | U.S.