IGF 2020 WS #136 Disinformation Disruption: Can fact-checkers save democracy?


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 1: Cristina Tardaguila, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Lisa Garcia, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Asad Baig, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - Circle - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

What kind of collaboration among Internet platforms and media outlets could work to fight disinformation and fake news online?

The main issues to be addressed are: the effects of election-related disinformation on democracy including potential increase in lack of trust in democratic systems among the public and the risks to online freedom of expression from political disinformation; the effectiveness of former and current platform-driven interventions to counter disinformation; are there common trends in measures found to be effective in different parts of the world in tackling disinformation; and, the best ways to bring together isolated efforts from civil society and independent fact-checkers to put up a united front against disinformation. Challenges that will be discussed include: Are Internet companies sufficiently able to deal with disinformation online? How would a one-size-fits-all technology solution to tackle disinformation cater for the regional and linguistic nuances in disinformation messages? What are the chief constraints of independent fact-checkers? The roundtable discussion will address opportunities including the possibility of extending lessons from fact-checking alliance-building efforts in the Americas and Europe to Africa and Asia as well as strategies for media outlets to work in collaboration with social media companies to identify and debunk disinformation online.


GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


Democracies around the world are threatened by the manipulation of public opinion online, especially through the use of sophisticated and coordinated disinformation campaigns, paid trolls, and artificial amplification of political narratives on social networking websites. The actions of platforms, including the social media giants Facebook and Twitter, have received fierce scrutiny in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections and allegations of targeted foreign interference with that election campaign. Since then, political disinformation campaigns have been documented in 70 countries around the world, according to the Oxford Internet Institute, indicating the global scale of the challenge. While Internet companies have taken some measures to curtail the spread of propaganda and disinformation that can derail elections in countries around the world, Internet governance experts have raised policy implications of outsourcing content regulation to private entities on the one hand and on the other, human rights defenders have pointed out the deficiencies in platform responses to the political contexts of the global South and their inability to make reliable content decisions with adequate understanding of language nuances in non-English speaking countries. Meanwhile, governments are also moving fast to reclaim their authority in online spaces through content regulation and anti-misinformation laws. Independent fact-checkers offer an alternative but their efforts are eclipsed by the volume of partisan debates, populist rhetoric, and nefarious disinformation on the Internet. The prevailing situation encourages a multi-stakeholder rethink of policy and practical issues surrounding the global efforts to protect Internet users and democratic values from the harmful effects of digital disinformation. This workshop will examine the findings from studies and joint efforts by civil society and Internet companies to document and tackle election-related disinformation since 2017. The roundtable discussion will facilitate a frank and honest exchange on lessons learned from past attempts and offer suggestions for future collaboration between Internet platforms, independent fact-checkers, and governments to fight disinformation. The following format will be used: Global context of election-related disinformation (5 minutes), Case studies (Pakistan, India; 10 minutes), Overview of existing collaborative interventions against disinformation (10 minutes), Moderated discussion of roundtable questions (30 minutes), and Recommendations (5 minutes).

Expected Outcomes

The recommendations will be shared with existing fact-checking advocacy initiatives, such as the International Fact-Checking Network, and the Internet policy teams at major Internet companies, such as the Facebook content policy team, to inform their future planning and intervention. Follow-up activities and discussions can look at operationalising collaborative projects between media, fact-checking units, and social networking websites.

Half of the time in the session has been dedicated to roundtable interaction between participants and subject experts to discuss important policy questions and pressing queries related to efforts to counter disinformation.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Efforts to confront election-related disinformation in online spaces ultimately connects with the policy debates on content regulation, the accountability of social media companies to make decisions about user speech, and the respect for human rights in digital spaces to truly realise the democratising potential of the Internet. The session will focus on engendering a collaborative and multi-stakeholder approach for protecting citizens from the harm of a specific type of disinformation. However, the recommendations from the session may be applied to any number of interventions related to general disinformation and may offer insight about the potential of stakeholders including Internet companies to work together, rather than in isolation or opposition, to develop norms for trustworthy content and principles for content moderation decisions that are agreeable to all.

Relevance to Theme: The proposed session connects directly with the thematic track as it addresses an issue (election-related disinformation) that has caused mistrust among the public of online information sources and offline governance structures. The session will bring up the roles and responsibilities of States, Internet companies, media, and civil society groups to ensure that the digital environment for citizens is not polluted with rumours, propaganda, and false information. It will also connect with the threat from disinformation to the right of freedom of expression of Internet users. The session also connects with policy questions about content regulation and about collaborative efforts for fighting disinformation.

Online Participation


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