Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned fake news as satanic, saying journalists and social media users should shun and unmask manipulative “snake tactics” that foment division to serve political and economic interests.
“Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth,” Francis said in the first document by a pope on the subject.
“Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests,” the pope wrote, condemning the “manipulative use of social networks” and other forms of communication.
False stories, the Pope said, spread so quickly that even authoritative denials often could not contain the damage done and many people run the risk of becoming “unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas”.
He called for “education for truth” that would help people discern, evaluate and understand news in order to recognise the “sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments”.
Francis compared the use of fake news to the Bible story of the devil, who, disguised as a serpent, persuaded Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree.
He said she was fed wrong information by Satan, who told her the fruit would make her and Adam as all-knowing as God.
“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those (purveyors of fake news) who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place.”