LGA helps councils fight fake news

Local Government Association issues advice to citizens

The Local Government Association has issued guidance for citizens it hopes will help councils beat the scourge of online fake news.

The membership body claims that councils have become concerned about the potential harm of misinformation spread among residents. It cites examples including a phishing scam perpetrated via emails purporting to have been sent by Calderdale Council. 

To help combat instances such as these, the LGA has issued a three-step guide for citizens to help determine if information being presented to them is legitimate.

The first step is to ask who is the source of the information. If it has been disseminated via social media, checking whether the account responsible is verified can help determine the legitimacy – or otherwise – of the information, the LGA said.

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The second step is to question how the information has been provided and examining, for example, whether advice or instruction purporting to be from a local authority comes from a site or email address with a gov.uk domain. 

The final step advised by the LGA is asking what is the content being shared, and whether it seems likely to be information a council would wish to distribute to residents.

Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “The ability to supply accurate information to residents is crucial to councils – whether it’s advising of closures owing to severe weather or updating on essential services. Fake news and misinformation can have serious consequences.”

He added: “The best way to tackle misinformation is for residents to be constantly vigilant, and ask the key questions of any information they see online – who is supplying this information, how are they doing it, and what are they saying? If those questions set off any red flags or alarm, it’s worth cross-referencing information with other council communication channels, such as the council website, social media, or calling the council directly.”

The LGA points to examples of authorities that have taken their own steps to fight fake news, such as Coventry City Council, which has created an online guide for citizens, including links to sources of reliable information.

Sam Trendall

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