- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pope Francis plans to address the “fake news” phenomenon early next year, His Holiness announced Friday.

“I have chosen this theme for World Communications Day 2018: ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn:32). Fake news and journalism for peace,” the pope tweeted.

Specifically he’ll set his sights on “baseless information that contributes to generating and nurturing a strong polarization of opinions,” the Vatican said in a statement.

“In a context in which the key companies of the social web and the world of institutions and politics have started to confront this phenomenon, the Church too wishes to offer a contribution, proposing a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media, and helping to promote professional journalism, which always seeks the truth, and therefore a journalism of peace that promotes understanding between people,” the Vatican’s Secretariat of Communication said.

Also known as the World Day of Social Communications, the event was first observed under Pope Paul VI in 1967 and is held annually in recognition of the Archangel Gabriel, the patron saint of messengers, on the Sunday preceding Pentecost – May 13 on next year’s calendar. The pope typically announces its theme on the preceding Sept. 29, the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Pope Francis will publish the text of his fake-news address on Jan. 24, the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, the Vatican said. 

“Fake news” entered the modern parlance during the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle after an influx of false and misleading articles began circulating on social media, though President Trump and his supporters have since used the term to decry legitimate news reports critical of his administration.

Facebook and Twitter have each identified hundreds of social media accounts on their respective platforms accused of spreading fake news and propaganda during the 2016 election likely on behalf of Russia, the companies announced this month. The U.S. intelligence community has previously accused Russia of using state-sponsored hackers and propagandists to meddle in the race in hopes of sowing chaos and helping elect Mr. Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Moscow has denied the allegations.

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