Fake news led to Adam and Eve’s original sin, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
Disinformation and “manipulative use of social networks” can have “dire consequences” and the world must embark on a “profound and careful process of discernment,” he added in a speech marking World Communications Day.
His speech was themed around the biblical verse: “The truth will set you free.” The pontiff also described journalism as “not just a job; it is a mission.”
Fake news — a term popularized by President Donald Trump — is “a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred,” Francis said.
There is no such thing as harmless disinformation, he said.
“Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects,” the pontiff added.
He tied fake news to the Bible, saying it was first used by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place,” he said. “This was the strategy employed by the ‘crafty serpent’ in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news which began the tragic history of human sin.”
Francis recounted how the serpent said something “only partly true,” asking Eve: “Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” In fact, God had only forbidden them to eat from one tree in particular, Francis said. “By listening to the deceiver and letting herself be taken in by his version of the facts, the woman is misled.”