This report by the Special Rapporteur explores the threats posed by disinformation to human rights, democratic institutions and development processes. 

The report finds that while the consequences of disinformation have been far-reaching, the responses by both States and companies have been problematic, inadequate and detrimental to human rights. 

In the digital age, disinformation has the capacity to spread further and faster than at any other point in human history. She acknowledges the challenges faced in attempting to prevent disinformation from having long-lasting political, social and economic consequences. 

The report also acknowledges how the ongoing presence of disinformation has the ability to destroy trust in Governments and institutions and that it poses a direct threat to individual’s ability to meaningfully exercise their human rights.

However, she suggests, while it is easy in the face of the challenges posed by disinformation to lose sight of the value that digital technology offers to democracy and society, it is also dangerous to do so. 

Actions to combat disinformation that undermine human rights are potentially short-sighted and counterproductive. The report argues that the right to freedom of opinion and expression is not a contributing part of the disinformation problem, it is the objective and the means for combating it. 

The Special Rapporteur proposes that at the core of the disinformation debate is a human rights challenge which is aggravated by an information disorder. Consequently, she suggests that international human rights provide a powerful and appropriate framework for addressing disinformation and the ongoing challenges it poses, with the report detailing how this framework can begin to be implemented. 

Building on the ground-breaking work of her predecessor on the human rights responsibilities of digital platforms, the Special Rapporteur’s report calls both for a review of the business models of digital platforms and a recalibration of State responses to disinformation through their:

  • Championing of free, independent and diverse media
  • Investment in media and digital literacy
  • Empowerment of individuals 
  • Rebuilding of public trust

These are complex problems and report does not purport to be comprehensive in either its findings or recommendations, rather the Special Rapporteur aims for the report to serve as the opening of a dialogue between Member States, companies, and civil society and for it to contribute to ongoing discussions in various forums.