NRIs collaborative session: Fake news, disinformation, misinformation: challenges for internet governance

18 Dec 2017 11:45h - 13:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

Mr Nick Wenban-Smith, representative from the UK IGF and the online moderator of this session opened the meeting and provided background on the ‘what to expect’ and ‘what not to expect’ of the session.  He mentioned that this session focused on determining what is fake news, misinformation, or disinformation. How it has grown, whether it is a real threat to the online world, how it affects citizens, and even elections, or other essential decisions taken at a local/national, or global level and how it has emerged as a major topic of discussion and potentially challenge to the online world. He emphasised that the online communications facilitated by the Internet brings individuals, organisations, and even governments together to share information and exchanges. Yet, if the information cannot be trusted as factual, it may affect decisions and even misinform them. Such concerns affect who trusts who, who is reliable as a source of information, and what is factual, or nonfactual, or if it is only a personal view that can be amplified using online tools. He posed questions to the panel members from the various regional IGF representations on how the National and Regional IGF’s have addressed these issues.

Mr Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola, Nigeria IGF, Chairman, Consultancy Support Services (CS2) Limited, highlighted that the biggest challenge the world faces in this domain, currently to distinguish the fake news from the factual news.  He commented that most often online information sources, which may present themselves as ‘independent media’ may not bring true independence or fact checking that is independent.  The solution that the Nigeria IGF came up with to address these challenges is a kind of solution framework consisting of four basic components as below:

  1. Mechanism to identify the sources of fake news and fake speech
  2. Actively discredit, discourage, derail or diminish the sources of fake news
  3. Drowning of fake news and hate speech with the credible narratives
  4. Send information that really didn’t add up to coordinating, clearing site

Prof. Hrvoje Lisicar, Croatia IGF, Faculty of Law in Zagreb University, mentioned that the biggest problem around this domain within Croatia is the lack of trust in traditional media.  He said this is because there is a  lack of professional standards in journalism.  Due to which, people have a huge distrust towards the traditional media, especially on people. They inform themselves, mainly through Facebook and other social media channels. He suggested that the outcome of the session that originated out of the Crotian IGF was to introduce media literacy programmes in schools. These new literacy programmes would focus on making young people aware on how to ‘distinguish fake news from the real news’ and ‘distinguish fake media from real media’.

A representative from the Colombian IGF mentioned that the civil society organisations were the ‘flag-bearer’ in leading the cause against the fake media/news.  He further provided the details of the civil society led new campaign ‘let’s lower the tone that is trying to soften the political discussions in the country’.

Ms Marilyn Cade from USA-IGF, emphasising on the growing concerns on fake news, quoted views of Vint Cerf, Current evangelist at Google ‘In the beginning, he knew that openness was crucial, because it allowed permission less innovation, but he hadn’t thought about what would happen in political speech.  He had a concern, he thought about what to do if anyone was going to develop and create an unprecedented social control mechanism.  He had recently talked to Henry Kissinger and told him that Henry was concerned that the Internet was training people to be satisfied with too little information.’  In the conclusion of session, she also mentioned that the innovative algorithms and technologies based on artificial intelligence is being developed and used by platforms, helping to curb the advancement and propagation of fake news within USA and globally.   

By Mohit Saraswat