Post 10 – Live From the IGF

This blog post discusses sessions about fake news that occured at the 13th annual Internet Governance Forum.

This past week (November 12-14, 2018) the thirteenth iteration of the Internet Governance Forum, which is an annual forum for the exchange of information and sharing of good policies and practices relating to the Internet and technology, took place in Paris, France. The IGF was hosted by the Government of France and held at the world headquarters of the UN Education, Science, and Cultural Organization. One of the major themes this year at the conference was “Media and Content,” about which a key message was that “…content channeled through different media increasingly influenced people’s opinions, decisions and nature of engagement with society. However, in today’s digital context, with its rapid changes, wide-spread implications and capacity to increase power divides, it is ever more important to consider and address the negative impacts of media and changing digital content.” To this end, I looked at the two sessions held at the forum on “fake news,” which the IGF stipulates is a broad term that lacks a definite definition . One session was called “Combating Fake News and Dangerous Content in the Digital Age” and the other “NRI Session on Fake News.”

The first panel took a specific focus on combating fake news, with information shared from several countries. The representatives from Indonesia point out several things. They referenced the contradiction between the idea that the internet should be a positive force for economic development (and thus have large amounts of money invested in the development of internet infrastructure) and the idea that social media platforms have the ability to propagate political instability. The Indonesian presenter mentioned how they combat disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation through public education (some people do not have the digital literacy to recognize fake content) and legal action. The Indonesian government had found that fake news had become an industry as people could pay certain criminal groups for hoaxes to be published about political targets. The session then spent some time talking about how the infrastructure of social media platforms prioritizes sensational items to increase ad revenue.

The other panel had participants share examples of combating fake news from the countries of Nigeria, Brazil, Finland, The United States, France and South Korea. In Nigeria, social media is used to turn people against the government and recruit terrorists. In Brazil, the publication of fake information about political parties is a crime, but the Brazilians recognized that punishment would have to occur post-even rather than restrict freedom of speech through preventative censorship. Both sessions show that “information disorder” is not a simple phenomenon restricted to a small number of countries, nor is it restricted to only election interference from a foreign government or the incitement of ethnic hatred.