The United Nations was conceived with the audacious vision of uniting all countries to build a more peaceful, more just, and more prosperous world for all generations to follow. 75 years later, the UN’s core principles of sovereignty, cooperation, and mutual understanding are as relevant as ever as our global community struggles with an unrelenting pandemic, an economic downturn disproportionately affecting the developing world, and increasing sociopolitical polarization. Contributing to this polarization is the dramatic rise in disinformation and misinformation, which serves to erode trust in public institutions, exacerbate class conflict, foment fear and hatred, and jeopardize our very democracies. The spread of propaganda and conspiracy theories is not a new phenomenon, of course. However, the technologies and platforms that now connect billions of people around the world have enabled the creation and rapid dissemination of more sophisticated and dangerous forms of distortion than ever before. Today, the public is bombarded with an array of conflicting opinions that make rational decision making increasingly challenging, from anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, election meddlers, and 5G scaremongers, among many others. From elected officials to celebrities, new media “influencers” to ordinary citizens, anyone can promote their version of the “truth”. It is therefore hardly surprising that a majority of people now believe that major news organizations—once considered a trusted information source—routinely produce false information. This concern is not unique to a single geography, industry, or issue and it affects all of us—individuals, communities, industries, and economies—directly or indirectly. Disinformation, designed to actively deceive and sow confusion, weakens the credibility of our institutions, emboldens hostile actors, and usurps the power of democracy. A multi-stakeholder approach will be essential in fully addressing the growing issue of misinformation and disinformation. Governments must protect the unfettered operation of a free press and encourage news literacy among citizens. The news industry must deliver high-quality, unbiased journalism to build credibility, gain public trust, and combat fake news. Technology companies must invest in tools to quickly identify false information, establish and adhere to transparent policies of use, and reduce financial incentives for those who profit from disinformation. Educational institutions must teach news literacy at all age levels as a critical priority.
Objectives of this Concordia Live: