Nov 23, 2020 - Technology

How to fight a digital "infodemic"

Illustration of a hand holding a phone over a pattern of hashtags revealing a checkmark indicating truth.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Combatting the global "infodemic" of harmful information online requires structural changes in how states exercise power over tech giants, a new report this month from an international human rights coalition argues.

Driving the news: The report, from the Forum on Information and Democracy's Working Group on Infodemics, recommends a broad new set of regulations to govern global digital platforms.

They include:

  • Transparency requirements with tough penalties for violations;
  • Content moderation rules following human rights principles;
  • A "digital building code" approach to software innovation;
  • And new safeguards for private message groups to limit the virality of misleading content.

Zoom in: The group is chaired by Maria Ressa, an editor who has faced prosecution in the Philippines for taking on the Duterte government, and former European Parliament member Marietje Schaake.

What they're saying: Ressa warned that other countries could easily slip into practices seen in Duterte’s Philippines, where extrajudicial killings have become commonplace, cheered on by online extremists.

  • "Our dystopian present is your future," she said. "It's time to end the whack-a-mole approach of the technology platforms to fix what they have broken."

Why it matters: With the U.S. debate over misinformation stuck in a partisan rut, it's valuable to zoom out on a global view of the problem and consider ideas from a broader set of sources than D.C.'s Republicans and Democrats.

Go deeper: Read the report.

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