In a tweet on Friday, Francis wrote that “I have chosen this theme for World Communications Day 2018: ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.”
A Vatican spokesman elaborated on the Pope’s message, saying that it will focus on “baseless information that contributes to generating and nurturing a strong polarization of opinions.”
“It involves an often misleading distortion of facts, with possible repercussions at the level of individual and collective behavior,” the spokesman said in a statement. “In a context in which the key companies of the social web and the world of institutions and politics have started to confront this phenomenon, the Church too wishes to offer a contribution, proposing a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media, and helping to promote professional journalism, which always seeks the truth, and therefore a journalism of peace that promotes understanding between people.”
It’s unclear the extent to which Francis will focus on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. They are under scrutiny by congressional investigators looking into Russian influence in the 2016 election.
The Pope’s message is expected to be published on Jan. 24, the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, who is the patron saint of journalists. The World Day of Social Communications, which was established during the Second Vatican Council in 1963, takes place on May 13.
Last year, in an interview with a Belgian publication, Francis warned the media about the sin of spreading false information, and he even compared the over-fascination with scandal to that of “the sickness of coprophilia.”