UNESCO issues guideline on governance of digital platform, underscores FoE and multi-stakeholders approach

In response to the surge of online dis- and misinformation, hate speech and conspiracies taking toll across the globe, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has released a guideline on how the digital platforms could be governed by respecting human rights online.

Issuing a press statement on Monday, the UNESCO released a ‘Guidelines for the Governance of Digital Platforms’ with special focus on protection of freedom of expression and access to information and the adoption of multi-stakeholder approach.

“Digital technology has enabled immense progress on freedom of speech. But social media platforms have also accelerated and amplified the spread of false information and hate speech, posing major risks to societal cohesion, peace and stability. To protect access to information, we must regulate these platforms without delay, while at the same time protecting freedom of expression and human rights,” observed Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

According to her, restriction of speech is an appalling measure. “Having media outlets and information tools that are independent, qualitative and free, is best long-term response to disinformation”, asserts the Director-General.

The guideline has aimed at cultivating an internet of trust, warranting attention and engagement from various stakeholders ranging from government to civil society, academia and technical community.

Importantly, the document has set principles and urged all sides for their true respect. The seven fundamental principles to be respected while governing digital platforms are- human rights and multi-stakeholders approach in decision-making; establishment of independent, public regulators; close coordination for wider network; feasible and effective content moderation; accountable and transparent platforms’ algorithms; platforms’ initiative to educate users; and stronger measures by regulators and platforms during sensitive moments like elections and crises.
The guideline was prepared after massive consultations, collecting over 10,000 comments from 134 countries. Inclusive participation was fostered in the worldwide consultations, thereby ensuring diverse voices.

As of September 2023, the number of people using social media has reached 4.75 billion across the globe.

In this connection, election related misinformation has been a severe concern. More than a dozen countries are holding election in 2024.

It is a coincidence that government bodies in Nepal including Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police held a discussion with international representatives of TikTok on November 3, seeking collaboration with TikTok Singapore Office so that the government would take measure to control ‘misuse of social media’.

A press statement released by the Home Ministry mentioned, “With this discussion, it has been easy to remove the contents on TikTok that breach social harmony; spread hatred; cast aspersion on dignitaries; jeopardize ethnic, religious, and social harmony; and indecent things, and to find and bring to book the people involved such activities.”


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