UN Calls for Stronger Information Integrity on Digital Platforms Amidst Rising Misinformation Threat

UN Calls for Stronger Information Integrity on Digital Platforms Amidst Rising Misinformation Threat

23 August 2023

In a comprehensive effort to combat the spread of online hate, mis- and disinformation, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has urged nations to address the significant challenges digital technologies pose. In a recent report launched by Guterres, there's a call for a new era of social media integrity to prevent the rampant spread of online misinformation, which has been causing "grave global harm."

Digital Advancements: Blessing and Curse

The rapid rise of digital platforms, including social media channels, search engines, and messaging apps, connects billions globally. Platforms such as Facebook boast about three billion users, helping mobilize global movements for racial justice, gender equality, and supporting communities during crises. The UN also leverages these platforms to promote peace, human rights, and environmental sustainability.

However, the misuse of these platforms is evident. They have become avenues for sowing division, promoting hate, and undermining scientific truths. This subversion threatens democracy, human rights, and even jeopardizes initiatives like public health measures and climate action plans. Guterres expressed concerns over targeted misinformation campaigns against UN peacekeeping missions and humanitarian efforts, adding to their risk.

Understanding The Dangers of Falsehoods

Misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech, while interrelated, serve different destructive purposes. Hate speech targets individuals or groups based on race, color, religion, nationality, or other grounds. Misinformation is the unintentional spread of wrong information, while disinformation aims to deceive.

Both have devastating consequences. The report highlighted that while traditional media remains pivotal, hatred fueled by digital platforms can spark violence. Several platforms have faced backlash for their roles in conflicts, notably the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Towards A Safer Digital Space

Guterres emphasizes international coordination to ensure digital spaces are safe and inclusive, protecting human rights. He criticized some tech companies for not doing enough and governments for resorting to extreme measures, such as internet shutdowns.

The report introduced a proposed "Code of Conduct" for digital platforms to ensure information integrity. This framework will promote human rights, independent media, transparency, user empowerment, and robust research and data access.

Key recommendations include:

  • Governments and tech companies must avoid using, supporting, or amplifying disinformation and hate speech.
  • A free, diverse media environment should be ensured with strong protection for journalists.
  • Digital platforms should prioritize user safety and privacy, applying policies consistently across regions.
  • All AI applications should be proactive, responsible, and human rights compliant.

UN Peacekeepers Tackling Disinformation Head-On

Further emphasizing the danger of misinformation, some UN peacekeeping missions are creating a "digital army" to counter disinformation threats. The initiative follows reports from UN missions, such as the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, highlighting the dangers of disinformation campaigns against peacekeepers.

Proactively, workshops are being organized to train individuals, such as 15-year-old activist Blessing Kasasi in the DRC, to detect "fake news" and counter it with truth. These workshops aim to produce credible, objective information that can be shared across various platforms.

Missions like MONUSCO in the DRC have been arming themselves digitally, ensuring that they aren't always in a reactive mode but can anticipate and counter misinformation threats.

The fight against disinformation is a crucial element of the UN's strategy, as evidenced by such initiatives. As digital platforms become ever more integrated into our daily lives, the stakes in ensuring the integrity of shared information become even higher.

Source: UN News