Original Article by Cindy Harper
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took center stage at the United Nations headquarters to speak about what he thinks is the spiraling issue of online “misinformation.”
The Proposal: Going on record, Guterres dubbed the misinformation situation “grave” and pitched the idea of stitching together an international code.
The plot: Guterres’ game plan? A trifecta alliance – roping in governments, tech juggernauts, and civil society – aimed at putting the brakes on the rampant spread of false information, especially on social media. What could possibly go wrong?
What he said: “The proliferation of hate and lies in the digital space is causing grave global harm now,” Guterres said at the press conference on Monday. “It’s fueling conflict, death, and destruction now. It is threatening democracy and human rights now.”
Free Speech Watchdogs Raise Eyebrows: Free speech supporters should be on high alert. All of this talk of regulatory overreach could silence genuine dissent and critical voices, as has already been happening over the last several years. Legal scholars and civil liberties organizations are urging that the proposed code should meticulously consider the implications on free speech, and seek to establish a nuanced approach. The real ones should be calling for it to be scrapped altogether.
Treading Carefully: Guterres didn’t have his blinkers on. He put the alleged dangers of misinformation front and center of his argument – think COVID-19 (who could forget) – but was quick to demand an international code that’s transparent.
Behind the Curtain: The nitty-gritty of the code? It’s still a secret but Guterres said a “United Nations Code of Conduct” for digital platforms should be coming next year.
The general consensus is that it’s likely to be an umbrella approach – think media literacy programs, some new ground rules for social media platforms, and a dash of fact-checking – the same type of stuff that’s plagued the internet over the last few years.