Canada spearheads UN declaration on fighting online 'disinformation' while claiming to 'protect freedom of expression'

On September 20, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly tabled a UN declaration that Canada spearheaded with the Netherlands to counter online ‘disinformation.’ According to the declaration, journalists are allies in this fight.

Canada spearheads UN declaration on fighting online 'disinformation' while claiming to 'protect freedom of expression'
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld and Facebook/ Melanie Joly
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The federal government’s quest to counter ‘disinformation’ remains unwavering, but not at the expense of freedom of expression, claims a UN document.

On September 20, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly tabled a UN declaration that Canada spearheaded with the Netherlands to counter online ‘disinformation.’

In the document, Global Declaration on Information Integrity Online, she urged her fellow UN delegates to take the “necessary and appropriate measures, including legislation, to address information integrity and platform governance.” 

The declaration is part of the UN’s commitment to remove ‘disinformation’ from the internet without contravening freedom of opinion and expression, reported True North.

Alongside 27 UN delegates, Canada is advocating “concrete steps towards establishing global norms on disinformation, misinformation, and information integrity,” said Joly.

In the document, information integrity is defined as a system which ensures people have access to “accurate information” while being offered a variety of ideas.

Those delegates on board have agreed to bolster “user access to diverse online content, including national and international sources of news and information,” and “promote and respect pluralistic media and journalism, and protect access to media content as one measure to counter disinformation.”

However, they must refrain from “blocking or restricting access to the Internet, eroding privacy, intimidating, harassing or abusing journalists, researchers and human rights defenders, interfering with their ability to operate freely, or criminalizing or otherwise punishing the exercise of the right to freedom of expression online.”

According to the declaration, journalists are allies in the fight against ‘disinformation.’ 

Joly said it is necessary amid the rise of “illiberal regimes,” like Russia, who she blames for “waging information warfare” and “polluting the information environment.” 

“This change is all happening at a speed and scale we’ve never seen before. We can’t afford to wait before acting,” the minister claimed in an effort to bolster support from other member states.

Though the declaration’s tenets are non-binding, the signatory states would monitor artificial intelligence “to identify the possible risks, impacts, harms, benefits and opportunities to the information ecosystem online.”

Joly told her fellow delegates that AI “has great potential to harm the integrity of the online information environment” by its ability to mass-produce disinformation.

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