Combating disinformation to protect human rights
More and more false and harmful information is deliberately disseminated especially in electronic information networks. The intentions behind dissemination of disinformation are varied: to undermine faith in democratic institutions, to sow discord between population groups, to put blame on and discriminate against minorities, to silence researchers and journalists, to win elections, and to gain personal or economic benefit. Unfortunately, the list is long and expanding.
The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) is a partnership of governments that are committed to the promotion of an open and safe internet. A Joint Statement on the dissemination of disinformation and human rights, prepared under the leadership of Finland and the United Kingdom, was published in november 2020. “The FOC aims to fight the use of disinformation in order to erode human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” says Ambassador for Human Rights Rauno Merisaari, who has been among those responsible for the preparation of the Joint Statement.
Collaboration as a way to best results
The Joint Statement underlines that, in their fight against disinformation, governments should not only refrain from becoming guilty of disseminating disinformation but also respect human rights norms. Businesses operating in online communications and social media platforms have a special responsibility in this respect. From the point of view of freedom of expression, removing online content is not a straightforward matter; distorting information is not criminal as such, but may cause great damage. The best way to reach results in the fight against disinformation is to collaboration between governments, companies, organisations and researchers.
“Matters relating to fight against disinformation and cyber security issues will be on the agenda also next year, when Finland will chair the FOC,” says Janette Sorsimo, who is responsible for the preparations for Finland’s Coalition Chair year. Finland has expertise in identifying cross-border disinformation activity as well as in digital and media literacy.
The Freedom Online Coalition is a human-rights organisation of 32 member governments, which promotes free, open and safe internet. The FOC creates global norms, exercises influence on global forums, and raises awareness of the objectives relating to human rights online. Finland will serve as the Coalition Chair in 2021. Finland will focus on equality and development, the impacts of artificial intelligence, and challenges related to authoritarian regimes.
Janette Sorsimo, Unit for Human Rights Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs