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United Nations calls for ‘global guidelines’ to combat ‘disinformation’ on social media

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to speak to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021. (Dreamstime/TNS)
March 03, 2023

More than 4,300 people participated in a conference last month organized by the U.N.’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a call for global guidelines for regulating social media platforms.

The Internet for Trust Conference three-day event sought to develop the regulatory statutes that will serve as the foundation for its public draft to be revealed in September.

“The blurring of boundaries between true and false, the highly-organized denial of scientific facts, the amplification of disinformation and conspiracies – these did not originate on social networks. But, in the absence of regulation, they flourish there much better than the truth,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said during her opening speech. 

She urged countries to act together so that information remains a global common good, stating that “only by taking the full measure of this technological revolution can we ensure it does not sacrifice human rights, freedom of expression and democracy.” 

READ MORE: China steps up cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns targeting Taiwan

At least 55 nations are working on various regulations for digital platforms, according to UNESCO. The latest efforts seek to coordinate the efforts of these many nations to provide a global standard based on human rights.

A key example used to highlight the need for the global standards was the Brasilia riot, in the capital of Brazil, in which protesters stormed the Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace in January. Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro believed Lula da Silva should not have been inaugurated as president, arguing that he had been convicted of crimes and should not have been allowed on the ballot.

Another example used regarding so-called “disinformation” online was the COVID-19 pandemic. A wide variety of views were held and promoted during the global pandemic, yet some views were censored while other views were promoted. The U.N. hopes to provide standardized guidelines to assist with future health issues on a global scale.

Free speech advocates could find many concerns with the new “misinformation” standards. U.S. freedoms could face opposition with some of the guidelines that promote limited free speech that stands in contrast with the First Amendment.

Others argue that global guidelines could also be manipulated and used for wrongful purposes by powerful people. The concern also comes as leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin have used media control to promote selected viewpoints and censor the views of others.