Newspapers in Sweden and Norway imposed a total ban on running April Fools Day stories this year amid hysteria about the so-called ‘fake news’ problem.
As part of efforts to curb the problem of propagating misleading stories to the public, newspapers in both countries decided that the long-running tradition of pranking readers with satire was no longer ‘acceptable’ under the current climate in Europe.
The concept of fake news became strong during the US presidential election in 2016 when Donald Trump insisted that false news stories about him were being published – an accusation he has continued to make since becoming president.
Trump has targeted reliable and well-established news services with allegations of running ‘fake’ stories, despite scant evidence to back up his claims.
Despite scepticism about many of Trump’s allegations, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s alleged involvement in the US election said it had been reported that 1,000 people were hired by Russia to produce fake news about Hillary Clinton in swing states during the election.
In addition, fake news stories have been created and shared on social media platforms, prompting Swedish and Norwegian news outlets to pledge not to run any joke stories on 1 April.
The editor-in-chief of Västerbottens-Kuriren told Swedish news agency TT: “Historically, we’ve had super-successful April Fools jokes. But because of debates and discussions about the media’s credibility being connected to fake news, we didn’t want to do it this year.”
The Local reported Magnus Karlsson, editor-in-chief of Swedish daily Smålandsposten as saying: “We work with real news. Even on 1 April.”