UN unveils principles for fighting online disinformation

AFP , Monday 24 Jun 2024

The United Nations on Monday published principles for fighting online disinformation, including an overhaul of the advertising model of social media networks.

United Nations Secretary-General Ant nio Guterres speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on the impacts of cyber threats on international peace and security at UN headquarters. AFP


"At a time when billions of people are exposed to false narratives, distortions and lies, these principles lay out a clear path forward, firmly rooted in human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and opinion," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

A year ago, Guterres warned that online disinformation posed an existential risk to humanity and said this was so even before the advent of artificial intelligence.

At the time the UN chief proposed the development of a code of conduct to serve as a benchmark for fighting online disinformation.

After consultations with a variety of actors in the field, the United Nations has now published broad principles -- although with no enforcement mechanisms.

The principles are societal trust and resilience; independent, free and pluralistic media; transparency and research; public empowerment; and healthy incentives.

While some countries are accused of being sources of disinformation, the UN document zeroes in particularly on Big Tech companies that allow this material to spread, such as social media platforms and search engines.

The United Nations is now calling on these companies to refrain from running false information and hate speech and in particular to take stronger measures to guarantee the accuracy of information during election campaigns.

"Disinformation and hate should not generate maximum exposure and massive profits," the text says, calling on social media platforms to drop "targeted programmatic advertising."

"Such opaque design can lead to advertising budgets inadvertently funding individuals, entities or ideas that advertisers might not have intended to support, which can constitute a material risk for brands," the document says.

It also calls on advertising companies to get involved, and team up if need be, to push social media platforms for transparency in the ad publication chain.

Addressing the risks of artificial intelligence, the document calls on tech companies to institute a system to clearly label content generated or mediated by AI.

Short link: