The first World Conference of Regulators to be held in mid-2024; to mobilise dedicated funding, including one million Euros pledged by the European Commission.
While unveiling an action plan to tackle online disinformation on November 6, 2023, UNESCO made a strong comment on the escalating proliferation of online disinformation and hate speech becoming “a major threat to stability and social cohesion.”
UNESCO’s action plan outlines the principles which must be respected as well as the concrete measures which must be implemented by all stakeholders: governments, regulatory authorities, civil society and the platforms themselves.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESC, sounded the alarm on social media platforms accelerating and amplifying the spread of false information. “Digital technology has enabled immense progress on freedom of speech. But social media platforms have also accelerated and amplified the spread of false information and hate speech, posing major risks to societal cohesion, peace and stability. To protect access to information, we must regulate these platforms without delay, while at the same time protecting freedom of expression and human rights”, she said at a press conference at UNESCO headquarters.
UNESCO said that representatives from independent regulators have already welcomed the initiative, and several of them - notably in Africa and Latin America - have indicated that they are ready to begin implementing these measures. “To this end, UNESCO will organise the first World Conference of Regulators in mid-2024,” stated a press release.
UNESCO said the organisation will also support its member states in transposing this action plan into their own laws and regulations. “To this end, UNESCO is mobilising dedicated funding, including one million Euros already pledged by the European Commission,” the press release further added.
In 2023, 60% of the global population, or 4.75 billion people, are using social media platforms to express, inform, and affirm themselves. However, these social networks, all too often, become bubbles of isolation, cocoons of misinformation, which sometimes foster conspiracy theories and extreme violence.
As virtual spaces for social interaction, they are beholden to algorithms designed to monopolise peoples’ attention, inadvertently favouring misinformation and hate speech by prioritizing clicks over certainty, probability over proof.
As per UNESCO’s new guidelines, the seven fundamental principles to be respected are as follows:
- The impact on human rights becomes the compass for all decision-making, at every stage and by every stakeholder.
- Independent, public regulators are set up everywhere in the world, with clearly defined roles and sufficient resources to carry out their mission.
- These independent regulators work in close coordination as part of a wider network, to prevent digital companies from taking advantage of disparities between national regulations.
- Content moderation is feasible and effective at scale, in all regions and in all languages.
- Accountability and transparency are established in these platforms’ algorithms, which are too often geared towards maximising engagement at the cost of reliable information.
- Platforms take more initiative to educate and train users to think critically.
- Regulators and platforms take stronger measures during particularly sensitive moments like elections and crises.