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Government urges voters to avoid fake news ahead of springtime elections

A government campaign warns Finnish voters of attempts to sway electoral trust online.

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Social media is a breeding ground for false information. Image: Esko Jämsä / AOP

With two elections coming up this spring, Finland's government is launching a multimedia campaign to urge people to vote – and to identify and critically approach claims circulating on the internet.

Parliamentary elections will be held on 14 April, and the European Parliament elections will take place 26 May. The campaign will broadcast over radio, TV and social media throughout the spring season leading up to the polls.

"This is a wake-up call for citizens to be critical: whenever we come across information online, we should interpret it with a big grain of salt," said information chief Jussi Toivanen from the Prime Minister's Office.

Toivanen said that people should think twice about sharing unverified content over the internet. 'Fake news' can be used to undermine elections and to erode trust in the political system, he explained.

"It is often very difficult to determine who is behind such attempts to detrimentally affect society through false information."

Toivanen said that the government campaign does not intend to curtail anybody's right to freedom of speech.

"But freedom of speech is not unlimited. The thing to focus on is responsible speech: there are norms, laws and rules that should be followed when communicating with others. Hate speech, name-calling, slander and demonising groups of people are unacceptable forms of communication."

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