Canadian charity sends legal caution to UNESCO about online censorship action plan

Legal advocates express concern with the United Nations and its subsidiary's plan to move forward with the support of online censorship as the Canadian government moves to impose the largest, most sweeping online censorship legislation that the country has ever seen.

Canadian charity sends legal caution to UNESCO about online censorship action plan
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A registered Canadian charity dedicated to strengthening democracy through defending civil liberties, promoting independent journalism and helping the world’s vulnerable has sent a letter of concern to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) opposing their plan to facilitate government-sanctioned internet censorship.

The Democracy Fund (TDF) says that UNESCO’s action plan, which supports member states in tackling “online disinformation” through social media regulation, is not part of the organization's mandate. The charity was able to draw this conclusion after discussing the policy with UNESCO representatives during a December 2023 meeting.

“With respect to the substance of our concerns, we note that Information Regulation is not within the mandate of UNESCO, nor is 'misinformation' or 'disinformation' mentioned in any founding UN document or the UN Charter,” the letter states.

TDF emphasizes that the inherent issue with “Information Regulation” stems from epistemic problems wherein the determination of truth is subjective and rooted in philosophical challenges.

For that reason, they call on UNESCO to answer 1) What authoritative epistemological theory is being employed as the intellectual foundation for Information Regulation? and 2) What truth-discerning mechanism or policy does UNESCO propose to distinguish between true and false information?

“Given these deficiencies, there will be no way to ensure that an Information Regulation program itself does not facilitate the spread of false information,” the letter further reads, noting that it would then be “impossible to maintain that those who implement Information Regulation would be any better at it than citizens using normal human discernment.”

Mark Joseph, Senior litigation counsel for TDF, calls the action plan infantilizing.

"It is the right and responsibility of free citizens - rather than government - using normal powers of human discernment, to determine truth from falsehood. Giving governments the power to do this for us - even in the case of politically disfavoured or unpalatable speech - is infantilizing. It inevitably results in a diminution in critical thinking skills and distortions of the public record."

TDF calls on UNESCO to abandon its plan to empower governments to become arbitrators of truth, especially in light of the Canadian “government's tabling of the Online Harms Bill C-63, it is imperative that free speech rights are protected.”

The charity says Bill C-63 would unleash an army of social media censors and bureaucrats on the Canadian public through threats of criminal sanctions and years of litigation on anyone who speaks on controversial subjects.

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