UN chief calls for new era of social media integrity in bid to stem misinformation

13 June, 2023

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Extracts and comments from me below. (With thanks to Richard Fitton for notifying me about this report)


"Alarm over the potential threat posed by the rapid development of generative artificial intelligence (AI) must not obscure the damage already being done by digital technologies that enable the spread of online hate speech, as well as mis- and disinformation" [said Antonio Gutteres, UN Secretary-General]. https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/06/1137562

The policy brief argues that they should be integral players in upholding the accuracy, consistency and reliability of information shared by users.

“My hope is that it will provide a gold standard for guiding action to strengthen information integrity,” he wrote in the introduction.

Digital platforms – which include social media channels, search engines and messaging apps – are connecting billions of people across the planet, with some three billion users of Facebook alone.

They have brought many benefits...

Yet these same digital platforms are being misused to subvert science and spread disinformation and hate, fuelling conflict, threatening democracy and human rights, and undermining public health and climate action...

Given the threat, the Secretary-General has called for coordinated international action to make the digital space safer and more inclusive while also protecting human rights. Constructive responses have largely been lacking. Some tech companies have done far too little to prevent their platforms from contributing to the spread of violence and hatred...

Advertisers and digital platforms should ensure that ads are not placed next to online mis- or disinformation or hate speech, and that ads containing disinformation are not promoted...

The text of the report [ https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/our-common-agenda-policy-brief... ] includes a small section on user empowerment:

'Member States should ensure public access to accurate, transparent, and credibly sourced government information, particularly information that serves the public interest, including all aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals...'

'All stakeholders should invest in robust digital literacy drives to empower users of all ages to better understand how digital platforms work, how their personal data might be used, and to identify and respond to mis- and disinformation and hate speech'


HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: neil@hifa.org