The UN is openly embracing the agenda of mobilizing to fight against perceived online hate speech and disinformation. The latest was to organize an event called, Internet for Trust.
The unelected and well-funded organization whose purpose primarily is to facilitate conflict resolution in the real world and provide peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance in war-torn areas, is now increasingly following in the footsteps of other unelected, though less formal elite groups, like the WEF.
Now, we have announcements from one of its agencies, UNESCO – that is supposed to promote world peace and security through international education, arts and sciences cooperation, and protection of world heritage in forms of monuments, etc. – crafting its very own “guidelines” to regulate “hate speech” and “misinformation.”
According to an announcement, UNESCO has found a way to explain how (but not when or why) it started to believe it should have this power to regulate online communications by citing its mandate to promote free circulation of ideas through words and images.
“The internet and social media offer many advantages in the world today. But as we know and we have just heard, individuals are increasingly using it for disinformation. And the reality is they also propagate hate speech.
UNESCO's global mandate includes the promotion of the free circulation of ideas through words and images. UNESCO has therefore decided to develop, through multistakeholder consultations, principles for regulation of digital platforms guidelines whose aim is to support the development and implementation of regulation procedures to guarantee freedom of expression and access to information while managing illegal contents and any contents that can be so harmful to democracy and respect for human rights.
And instead of doing just that – the agency stopping the free circulation of often arbitrarily selected (and sometimes contrary to national law) “unwanted” information, and regulating that, is apparently the way to go.”
The Regulation of Digital Platforms guidelines, which UNESCO is developing does pay what looks like unavoidable lip service to freedom of expression and access to information – but the main goal is to “manage” what the UN has deems “illegal contents and any contents that can be so harmful to democracy and respect for human rights.”
That's a handily broad definition to cover a lot of things – whether truly harmful or not – and the whole idea is sure to make quite a few free speech proponents unhappy.
But those behind it are positively giddy to be work on guidelines to “support the development and implementation of regulation procedures” aimed at “guaranteeing” access to information, and freedom of expression, but primarily, really, to “manage” whatever is label as illegal any content that somebody decides could harm democracy and human rights.
In announcing the Internet for Trust conference, UNESCO mentioned looking for ways to combat hate speech, misogyny, doxxing and conspiracy theories, and even, with a straight face, suppression of free speech.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that regulation was necessary online:
“The blurring of boundaries between true and false, the highly-organized denial of scientific facts, the amplification of disinformation and conspiracies – these did not originate on social networks,” the UNESCO head said. “But, in the absence of regulation, they flourish there much better than the truth.
“Only by taking the full measure of this technological revolution can we ensure it does not sacrifice human rights, freedom of expression and democracy. For information to remain a common good, we must reflect and act now, together,” she said.