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Canada launches UN declaration pledging ‘measures’ on disinformation

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OTTAWA — A new United Nations declaration, launched Wednesday by Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, says signatories will take steps to address online disinformation.

The 27 countries that signed the document pledge to implement “necessary and appropriate measures, including legislation, to address information integrity and platform governance.” They will do so in a manner that “complies with international human rights law,” including freedom of opinion and expression, the document said.

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They also promise to monitor and respond to the rise of generative artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, “to identify potential risks, impacts, harms, benefits and opportunities in the information ecosystem online.”

Canada and the Netherlands began work on the initiative last year and launched the resulting Global Declaration on Information Integrity Online at the United Nations on Wednesday. Signatories include Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Japan and South Korea, among others.

In a speech, Joly said the past year has seen “illiberal regimes,” like Russia, continue to “conduct information warfare and pollute the information environment.” At the same time, the rise of artificial intelligence “has great potential to damage the integrity of the online information environment” through AI-generated media and mass-produced disinformation.

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“This change is happening at a speed and scale that we have never seen before. We can’t afford to wait before acting,” Joly said, according to a copy of her remarks. He called the declaration a “concrete step toward establishing global standards on disinformation, misinformation, and information integrity.”

The declaration defines information integrity as a system that ensures that people can access accurate information and be exposed to a variety of ideas.

It sets the news media as a tool to combat disinformation. The signatories pledged to promote “user access to diverse online content, including national and international sources of news and information,” and to “promote and respect pluralistic media and journalism, and protect access to media content as a measure to combat disinformation.”

They also promised not to “unduly” restrict human rights online, “in particular” freedom of expression. That means they will avoid, under the guise of fighting disinformation, “blocking or restricting access to the Internet, taking away privacy, threatening, harassing or abusing journalists, researchers and human rights defenders, interference with their ability to operate freely, or criminalize or otherwise punish the exercise of the right to freedom of expression online.”

The declaration also says the signatories “invite” platforms to take steps, including transparency of algorithms.

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