Fake News and Information Professionals’ Codes of Ethics [review]

Reseña del artículo «Fake News y los códigos éticos de los profesionales de la información» de Juanjo Boté, académico de la Universitat de Barcelona e investigador del proyecto INDOCS.


The goal of this paper is to discuss concepts related to Fake News. The study includes the different meanings of Fake News, along with related information disorders. It also includes an analysis of information professionals’ ethical codes in relation to information disorders and ethical behaviours regarding information management. The speed and ease with which Fake News can be disseminated has implications for these information professionals. The literature review explore some of the different taxonomies and typologies of Fake News published by the following authors: Aznar (2019), Froehlich (2017), Verstraete, Bambauer and Bambauer (2017) and Wardle and Derakshan (2017). Methodologically, this paper analyzes the information professionals’ codes of conduct for the main organizations and associations, in a thoughtful manner. These codes of conduct include those published by the International Federation of Libraries (IFLA, 2017), the American Library Association (ALA, 2017), the Association for Information Sciences and Technology (ASIS&T, 1992), and the Society of Professional Journalists (Society of Professional Journalists, 2014). We also discuss guidelines to avoid unethical behaviours relating to information. The conclusions inferred from this study are that Fake News impacts many different disciplines, such as economics and science. However, information professionals, through their codes of conduct and aided by technology, can help society prevent the spread of Fake News.

Key words: Fake News, information professionals, disinformation, ethical codes, codes of conduct.


El objetivo de este artículo es debatir los conceptos relacionados con las Fake News. Estos conceptos están relacionados con los diferentes significados de las noticias falsas, el trastorno informativo, así como analizar códigos éticos de los profesionales de la información frente a los desórdenes informativos y al comportamiento ético con respecto a la gestión de la información. La rapidez y facilidad con las que se pueden difundir las noticias falsas tiene implicaciones en estos profesionales. En la revisión de la literatura se exploran las diferentes taxonomías y tipologías de Fake News publicadas por los siguientes autores: Aznar (2019), Froehlich (2017), Verstraete, Bambauer y Bambauer (2017) y Wardle y Derakshan (2017). Así, se debate de forma reflexiva los códigos de conducta de las principales organizaciones y asociaciones de estos colectivos. Metodológicamente se analiza de manera reflexiva la información de los códigos profesionales de conducta de los profesionales de la información para las principales organizaciones y asociaciones. Se analizan los códigos publicados por la Federación Internacional de Bibliotecas (IFLA, 2017) y otras entidades también relevantes como la Asociación Americana de Bibliotecas (ALA, 2017), la Asociación de Ciencias de la Información y Tecnología (ASIS&T, 1992) y Sociedad de periodistas profesionales (Society of Professionals Journalists, 2014). Se muestra también unas pautas para evitar comportamientos no éticos con la información. Las conclusiones que se derivan de este estudio es que las Fake News impactan en muy diversos ámbitos como la economía o la ciencia. No obstante, los profesionales de la información mediante sus códigos de conducta pueden ayudar a la sociedad a evitar la diseminación de noticias falsas, pero también ayudados por la tecnología.

Palabras clave: Fake News, profesionales de la información, desinformación, códigos éticos, códigos de conducta.


The dissemination of fake news generally involves one or more different goals for spreading them. The first goal encompasses using news to damage someone’s reputation with false, biased, or misleading information. Another is earning money through advertisi ng based on click-bait techniques (Alvarez, 2017). These two examples show that fake news may have different uses and faces.

The internet and social media in particular, allow the end user to easily and quickly disseminate any type of information in several different forms. Additionally, many institutions and information professionals such as members of the media, journalists, political parties, politicians, or financial companies are constantly facing fake news. As literature shows, social media is heavily utilized to spread fake news. For example, a study in the United States showed that 55% of the population believed that false social media profiles are responsible for the spread of Fake News (Richter, 2019).

Fake news tends to alter the reality of a story, and consequently it is difficult to change a receiver’s mind once it has been altered. False news can provide a feeling of familiarity and truthfulness based on the illusory truth paradigm (Jackson, 2019). This sense of truthfulness enables the consumption of this sort of content.

There are several motivations for the creation and consumption of fake news. Some of the root causes of fake news include online communication, economic aspects (Blanco -Herrero & Arcila – Calderón, 2019), the lack of a centralized control mechanism for news consumption on social media platforms, and a decreasing trust of media (Budak, 2019). For instance, in Finland 59% of the population surveyed places trust in media, but in the United States only 32% seem to trust the news media, which is close to the levels of Slovakia (33%) or Malaysia (31%) (Watson, 2019).

Bearing that in mind, it seems that the smaller budgets for traditional media to verify information and produce more rigorous work, together with a lack of online conten t control has enabled the spread of fake news.

In economic terms, fake news has a low cost of production and a high rate of dissemination because of how cheaply the content can be shared with millions of people (Khodabakhsh, Busch & Ramachandra, 2018; Landon-Murray, Mujkic & Nussbaum, 2019). Technology will continue to reduce the cost of creating and spreading fake news, and rapid advances in artificial intelligence (hereafter AI) will bring different and likely even faster approaches, effects, and form of content delivery. One example of this approach are the deepfakes, consisting of a modified video using AI.

The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of information disorder and unethical information, as well as a discussion of the codes of conduct o f information professionals and suggested guidelines for avoiding unethical information behaviour in relation to information disorder.



Boté-Vericad, Juan-José (2020). Fake News and Information Professionals’ Codes of EthicsTelos: revista de Estudios Interdisciplinarios en Ciencias Sociales, 22 (3), Venezuela. (Pp.567-578). DOI: www.doi.org/10.36390/telos223.07