We struggle with information disorder – POLITICO


Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.

Today, in Russia, one cannot pronounce the word “war”.

Instead, the bloody assault on the Ukrainian people should be called a « special military operation ». Dozens and dozens of websites, well beyond the official state media apparatus, are spreading false stories, and newspapers that do real journalism, like Novaya Gazeta, are being silenced.

Meanwhile, networked social media propaganda is alive and well in Southeast Asia, as the brutal history of Marcos’ military rule is systematically erased in the Philippines, helping to bring Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – aka « Bongbong » – in power.

Globally, we are struggling with information disorder. Without facts, there is no truth. Without truth, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to face the existential problems of the world.

Authoritarian governments have always muzzled independent media, of course, but it’s time to consider Big Tech and its surveillance-based business model, actively promoting lies and hate, just because it can make profits.

So what do we do?

Obviously, some governments just can’t be trusted, but this current ecosystem of toxic information is not inevitable. We can act, and we must act — before it’s too late.

That is why, as Nobel Peace Prize laureates and journalists, we have proposed a 10-point plan of action for rights-respecting democratic governments around the world to reclaim the architecture of the global conversation and to heal our struggling democracies.

To do this, we argue that three fundamental things must change: First, we must end the for-profit surveillance business model.

The invisible “editors” in today’s news ecosystem are opaque algorithms that recommend content to us in our social media feeds. These are designed to keep us scrolling endlessly following everything we do online to maximize what is called engagement. It also abuses our right to privacy, allowing our data to be used against us. It must be mastered on a global scale.

Europe has made a start in this area, with new laws like the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. However, these laws must be enforced to force monopolistic tech platforms to de-risk their design, detoxify their algorithms, end surveillance advertising, and give users real control. Advertisers and brands also have a role to play here: they can use their money to vote against these practices that harm society.

We also need to end technological discrimination and treat people everywhere the same.

2024 is a critical year for democracy, with elections in massive democracies like India, Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico. But none of these elections or companies will get the attention or guarantees they need from big social media companies under the law – like the United States or the European Union do.

In many parts of the world, only direct pressure on these platforms will work, because governments are complicit. thus, we will need concerted civil society research, as well as pressure and solidarity from around the world to demand transparency and accountability from these Big Tech platforms, especially in Asia, Africa and America Latin.

Finally, we must rebuild independent journalism as an antidote to tyranny.

By gobbling up ad revenue and enabling the industrial-scale spread of hate and misinformation, Big Tech has unleashed forces that are devastating independent media. According to Freedom House, only 13% of the world’s population has access to a truly free press. And in an ecosystem where Russians can’t even utter the word “war,” how can we hold power to account amid such a misuse of language and facts?

There is no doubt that journalism itself must change. Instead of falling back on old ways of pursuing false “objectivity,” it must evolve to reflect the diversity and nuances of the world we live in. And it will take increased government investment, as well as genuine support for journalists under attack, to save this vital pillar of free societies.

We believe that our action plan to deal with this crisis is achievable. Nearly 100 experts and civil society organizations have joined us and other Nobel laureates in signing it, and more will do so in the coming days.

The more support it receives, the more we are able to develop our power to save what we simply cannot take for granted: democracy, freedom and peace.


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