Councils warn of ‘fake news’ dangers

The Local Government Association (LGA) has outlined guidance to help residents sort legitimate information from councils from ‘fake news’ which can be inaccurate and misleading.

With the government having recently established a National Security Unit to tackle fake news on a national and global scale, the LGA is urging residents to follow a ‘three-stage fact-check’ to determine whether they are seeing genuine information online or fake news or a scam. This includes checking the source of the online information, assessing the media they are seeing this information on and asking what content is being distributed and whether it is something a council would want to communicate to residents.

Responsible for an array of services, which are regularly reported and updated online, councils are concerned about the use of misinformation to impact local authorities’ day-to-day work and are warning residents to be on their guard for unexpected communications purporting to be from authorities that are in fact from scammers.

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.

“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.

“Councils will always endeavour to communicate in an accessible and professional way. Simple checks such as looking for verification ticks on social media, or checking the tone and style of written communications can help residents sort between genuine council correspondence and misinformation. Anybody concerned about fake communications purporting to be from a local authority should contact their council directly.”

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