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UN Building 'Digital Army' To Combat 'Misinformation'

The UN defines disinformation as ‘false information that is disseminated intentionally to cause serious social harm’

The United Nations (UN) is building a digital army to take action against so-called misinformation and disinformation on social media networks.

Officials at the UN also want the digital army to influence social media sites to move the global community toward its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It has become clear that business as usual is not an option,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a policy brief launched in June on information integrity on digital platforms. “The ability to disseminate large-scale disinformation to undermine scientifically established facts poses an existential risk to humanity and endangers democratic institutions and fundamental human rights.”

While in the brief the UN acknowledges there is no universally agreed upon definition for the term “disinformation,” it says it has created its own working definition: “false information that is disseminated intentionally to cause serious social harm.”

The UN is deputizing people across the globe of all ages to be members of its digital army. It recently held a workshop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with 30 young people to teach them about detecting “fake news” and how to counter it with the truth.

Participants were taught techniques for collecting, processing, and disseminating verified news. They also learned to cross-check information and verify it at the source.

The UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, trained participants on video and photojournalism and provided those in the workshop with smartphones equipped with editing software.

According to MONUSCO, which organized the training, disinformation has been weaponized in the DRC to undermine peace efforts and has led to unspecified harmful consequences within local communities.

Guterres stated in the policy brief that mis- and disinformation have negatively impacted the “areas of health, climate action, democracy and elections, gender equality, security and humanitarian response.”

The UN has also launched UN Verified, a free online course with a strong focus on COVID-19 and climate change that covers lessons including how to:

  • Recognize disinformation and why it spreads.
  • Recognize emotional, dramatic, and provocative content.
  • Understand the danger of fabricated claims and selective evidence.
  • Protect yourself from bots and trolls.
  • Spot hacked accounts and protect your own accounts.
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