Japanese mass media researchers and journalists have ramped up their efforts to identify dubious information on the internet related to the upcoming House of Representatives election in a bid to stem the spread of fake news affecting voter behavior.
Fake news, typically social media stories containing incorrect information, has been a major issue in recent elections in Europe and the United States, including the U.S. presidential race last year, they said.
A project launched by the Japan Center of Education for Journalists and Hiroyuki Fujishiro, an associate professor at Hosei University in Tokyo, is listing fake news items related to Sunday's election on the JCEJ's website.
Four news items have been identified as fake so far in the initiative involving students belonging to Fujishiro's research team and journalists from 19 media companies, including newspapers, television networks and online media.
Students first sort out digital media information, including Twitter posts, that are related to political parties and candidates running in the lower house election. The journalists then check the contents. If journalists from at least three media companies judge a news item is fake, the JCEJ will publicize the finding.
For example, an article posted on an internet site on Oct. 3, saying that the leader of the new liberal Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan was "astonished" to learn that its name had been trademarked by a company, was determined to be fake. Another online news item identified as false by the project contained "@kyodo" in an apparent bid to pass it off as a Kyodo News report.
"We can't make a judgment about fake news easily as verification requires steady work, but we can make progress in our research on the matter by compiling a list of fake news," said Fujishiro.
Another group called FactCheck Initiative Japan is also flagging information related to the lower house election deemed doubtful or inaccurate, including remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and reports run by a major daily, on its website.
Five online media operators are participating in the project, classifying information into categories such as "false" and "groundless."
Daisuke Furuta, chief editor of BuzzFeed Japan, which is one of the five online media organizations, said, "It is the media that has the know-how to verify whether news items are inaccurate or intentionally false rumors. People around the world are working on the issue and we want such movements to spread further in Japan."