Internet’s ‘informational chaos’ threatens democracy


As ‘fake news’ and disinformation campaigns continue to impact societies and politics, a new report from the Forum on Information and Democracy offers 250 recommendations for social media platforms and governments to fight misleading content and disinformation on the internet.

The forum proposes new ideas that could help in ending the internet’s “informational chaos” by addressing four main structural challenges:

  • Content moderation
  • Platform transparency
  • Promotion of reliable news and information
  • Private messaging services

The Forum’s new report [pdf] recommends enforcement of public regulations, in order to impose transparency requirements on online service providers.

“Democracy is under threat and the lack of trust or outright manipulation increasingly has an information component,” said Marietje Schaake, (above, right) co-chair of the Forum’s steering committee and a former member of the European Parliament. “Governance of our digital world must be wrestled back from private companies and authoritarian states alike if democracy is to survive.”

Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa (above, left) called for “emergency actions” and intervention to rein in big tech and social media companies, citing their negative impact on democracy.

“We need to take emergency actions. It’s an emergency intervention and we need to do this,” she said in an interview with CBS News’ Elaine Quijano at the 2020 Reykjavík Global Forum – Women Leaders event.

Meanwhile, a recent report from the watchdog group Freedom House warns that many authoritarian governments are seizing on the pandemic to expand their surveillance powers and crack down on online dissent, while imposing new restrictions on the flow of information across national borders, World Politics Review adds. 

Freedom House’s Adrian Shahbaz, one of the report’s co-authors, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to talk about how more and more countries are turning their backs on the idea of an open and free internet amid the pandemic. Listen to the full conversation here.

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