Forum on Information and Democracy releases damning report on social media platforms

2020-11-12

As 'fake news' and continue to impact societies and politics around the world, the Forum on Information and Democracy has released a new report offering 250 recommendations for social media platforms and governments to fight misleading content and disinformation on the internet.

Disinformation refers to the false and manipulated information that is spread with an intent to mislead or deceive people. Such information often spreads through social media platforms, with the help of automated accounts.

Disinformation poses a significant threat to democracies and human rights, the report says. It not only sows seeds of discord among people, but creates confusion and undermines confidence in government institutions and processes (like elections).

Disinformation also takes a toll on relationships, as a recent survey found that many Americans argued with someone (36 per cent) or unfriended someone on social media (30 per cent) because of disinformation on a social media platform.

Another study also found that people are more likely to believe related to Covid-19 if that fake information appeared on social media.

The Forum on Information and Democracy has now come up with some new ideas that, it claims, could help in ending the "informational chaos" on internet.

The Forum describes four main structural challenges that need to be addressed while fighting misinformation on social media:

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

It suggests that "transparency requirements should relate to all platforms' core functions in the public information ecosystem, including content moderation, content ranking, content targeting and social influence building."

Moreover, regulators who are in charge of enforcing transparency requirements must have strong democratic oversight and audit processes.

One of the core recommendations of the Forum's report is that online platforms should expand their number of moderators, and spend a minimal percentage of their income to improve the quality of content review.

It also suggests adding "friction" to online sharing, to prevent the quick spread of fake news and disinformation. Twitter experimented with this during the recent US election, forcing people to quote-retweet rather than simply retweeting.

The Forum for Information and Democracy was launched in 2019 by 11 non-governmental organisations and research centres to make non-binding recommendations to 38 countries.

"Democracy is under threat and the lack of trust or outright manipulation increasingly has an information component," said Marietje Schaake, 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."

"Democratic leaders must take their responsibility to preserve democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms now."