Jan. 24 (UPI) -- During his annual social communications message on Wednesday, Pope Francis condemned "fake news" and compared it to the evil "snake-tactics" used in the Garden of Eden.
"The strategy of this skilled 'Father of Lies' is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments," the pope said during the speech.
Francis said the effectiveness of false news is due to its ability to mimic real news -- and that it grasps people's attention because it appeals to stereotypes and social prejudices, while exploiting "anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration."
"Untrue stories can spread so quickly that even authoritative denials fail to contain the damage," he said.
The Pope encouraged followers to engage in constructive dialogue and learn about different perspectives.
"The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict," he said. "Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred."
The term "fake news" was popularized in 2017 by U.S. President Donald Trump, who regularly used the phrase in tweets to describe critical news reports from U.S. media.
The pope also praised recent efforts by social media platforms to make users aware of false reports.
"Fake news often goes viral, spreading so fast that it is hard to stop, not because of the sense of sharing that inspires the social media, but because it appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings," he said.
The pontiff said those who are constantly contaminated by deceptive language have a hard time finding the line between truth and falsehood.
"People who lie to themselves and listen to their own lie come to such a pass that they cannot distinguish the truth within them, or around them," he said. "To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose."
Francis also called on journalists to seek the truth and resist sensational headlines, being a "journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those -- and they are the majority in our world - who have no voice. "