Experts advocate the protection of the democratic environment in the face of digital extremism

Pollution in the information ecosystem, regulation of digital platforms, guarantee of expression’s freedom, threat to democratic elections and the damage that misinformation can cause in the public and private spheres are some of the issues addressed by experts at a side event of the G20 Digital Economy Working Group held in São Paulo.

05/12/2024 7:00 AM - Modified 19 days ago
Photo: FreePik
Photo: FreePik

One of the global concerns about the integrity of information is the protection of the democratic rights of people in different countries. Experts from all over the world are warning of the threats and attacks that have been made in this regard. Eileen Donahoe, coordinator for Digital Freedom (USA), points to the urgency of debating the challenges of information integrity, since it is a common problem among world governments. "We need to both support freedom of expression and build information integrity," she said.

Anne Marie Engtoft Meldgaard, Denmark's Technology Ambassador, expressed concern about the growing consequences of "pollution in the information ecosystem", which actually is invading platforms. "My request is that each platform should be able to regulate itself. You have to think about new values that come from citizens," she emphasized.

Jason Pielemeier, executive director of the Global Network Initiative, believes that the debate is important for building resilience in the fight against extremism on networks. For him, misinformation can cause public and private damage. "Misinformation is a broader category. It's very difficult to ban without causing bigger impacts in terms of protecting freedom of information. And as a result, misinformation can be difficult to reconcile with the principles of proportionality, illegality and also on the issue of national and international human rights," he explained.

Joelle Rizk, digital risk advisor for the International Committee of the Red Cross, points out that as well as being a global problem, the issue of information integrity is also a humanitarian one. "Harmful information has no borders, and the rapid development of misinformation is growing on a scale we've never seen before". For her, this generates distrust in institutions, causing damage that affects society, communities and individuals. "It's a serious humanitarian problem," she said.

Risk to democratic elections

Marcelo Eugenio Feitosa Almeida, Attorney General of the Union, recalled the anti-democratic acts of January 8, 2023 in Brasil and the immediate action to identify those involved. He also spoke about the actions being taken to combat misinformation about public policies in Brasil, in the year of the municipal elections. 

"It is very important to point out that all our actions, especially those dealing with misinformation, are focused on promoting freedom of expression in its broadest sense." He also recalled that freedom is largely related to the responsibility of individuals. He also proposed "democratic regulation that guarantees the protection of fundamental rights in digital services markets".

The panel "Creating resilience: protecting elections and public institutions from the political instability of online extremism" was part of the Digital Economy Working Group's side event “Promoting information integrity: combating disinformation, hate speech and threats to public institutions online”  held in São Paulo on April 30 and May 1.

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