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Pope Francis warns against Internet 'disinformation'

The Internet 'is a source of knowledge and relationships that were once unthinkable,' the Argentine pope said in a message for the World Day of Social Communications.

Pope Francis. Picture: United Nations Photo.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Thursday warned against the "disinformation" and "targeted distortion of facts" to be found on the Internet and social networks' "manipulation of personal data".

The Internet "is a source of knowledge and relationships that were once unthinkable," the Argentine pope said in a message for the World Day of Social Communications.

"However... many experts also highlight the risks that threaten the search for, and sharing of, authentic information on a global scale," he said.

"If the Internet represents an extraordinary possibility of access to knowledge, it is also true that it has proven to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts," the Argentine pope said.

"We need to recognise how social networks, on the one hand, help us to better connect, rediscover, and assist one another, but on the other, lend themselves to the manipulation of personal data, aimed at obtaining political or economic advantages, without due respect for the person and his or her rights," he said.

On social networks, "we define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice," the pontiff said.

"This tendency encourages groups that exclude diversity, that even in the digital environment nourish unbridled individualism which sometimes ends up fomenting spirals of hatred. In this way, what ought to be a window on the world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism."

This year's World Day of Social Communications will be marked on 2 June, the Vatican said.

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