The United Nations (UN) is urging online platforms to counter so-called “dis- and misinformation, hate speech and conspiracy theories” in its “Governance of Digital Platforms” recommendations released on Saturday.
The UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) employed a “multistakeholder approach” in crafting the digital platform guidelines, consulting with civil society, government, academics, technologists, the private sector and more, according to the document. The guidelines assert they will protect “freedom of expression” while combating perceived disinformation, hate speech and conspiracy theories.
A key focus of the guidelines is to ensure that platforms do their part to maintain election integrity, according to the document. “Digital platforms should recognize their role in supporting democratic institutions by preserving electoral integrity,” it states. “They should establish a specific risk assessment process for the integrity of the electoral cycle in the lead-up to and during major national election events.”
Moreover, the platforms should incorporate “gender” considerations in these evaluations, according to the guidelines. “Assessments should include a gender approach, given the rise of online violence against women voters, candidates, activists, elected representatives, and electoral management officials,” it states.
Platforms also should prevent discrimination in their programming, including within algorithms, according to the guidelines. “Digital platforms should ensure non-discrimination and equal treatment in their design processes, as well as in their content moderation and curation policies, practices, and systems,” it states. “This encompasses addressing biases, stereotypes, and discriminatory algorithms or content moderation practices that affect women and girls, as well as groups in situations of vulnerability and marginalization, including indigenous communities.”
While UNESCO does not endorse leaving controversial posts on platforms, it does advocate for transparency regarding the justifications for removal.
“Digital platforms should notify users and explain the appeal processes when their content is removed, expressly labelled, restricted in terms of comments or resharing or advertising association, or given special limits in terms of amplification or recommendation (as distinct from ‘organic/algorithmic’ amplification and recommendation), and why,” it states. “This would allow users to understand the reasons why that action on their content was taken, the method used (automated means or human review), and under which platform rules the action was taken. Platforms should also allow users to appeal such decisions and seek appropriate redress.”
In the U.S., some parts of the federal government appeared to be aligned with these guidelines, based on a House Judiciary Committee report published on Nov. 6. The report determined that the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency was aware of and participated in internet censorship efforts during the 2020 election. It helped establish the Election Integrity Partnership, an “information exchange” between researchers, election officials and government agencies.
The UN released a policy brief in June, titled “Information Integrity on Digital Platforms,” which details how to combat online “mis- and disinformation and hate speech,” including through demonetization. It regularly references work from groups that actively urge the censorship of conservative speech online.
UNESCO did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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