Fighting fake news, protecting free speech: Global perspectives on combatting online misinformation

19 December 2017 - A Workshop on Other in Geneva, Switzerland

Agenda

Proposer's Name: Mr. James Tager
Proposer's Organization: PEN America
Co-Proposer's Name: Ms. Katy Glenn Bass
Co-Proposer's Organization: PEN America


Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Speaker: Yehven Fedchenko
Speaker: Ashif Rabi
Speaker: James Tager
Speaker: Dunja Mijatovic
Speaker: Andreas Vlachos
Speaker: Rasha Abdulla
Speaker: Paolo Cesarini

Workshop Overview

The rise of “fake news”—which is primarily spread on the internet through the sharing of online articles and chain e-letters, and posts on social media platforms—has given rise to widespread concern about its negative societal impact, including influencing elections, undermining public faith in institutions, and eroding support for democratic principles. In response, governments and technology companies around the world are working quickly to curb its spread. However, some of the approaches being advanced have the potential to restrict free speech online, limit legitimate civic debate, and damage press freedom. As this ongoing debate continues, how do we ensure that efforts to combat fake news do not unduly burden free expression online?

AGENDA

1. Introduction and Moderating Remarks, James Tager (5-10 Minutes)

2. Opening Panelist Remarks (8 minutes each, for a total of 40 minutes)

Each panelist will be instructed to prepare their comments with the intent of addressing one or more of the questions posed (above) in addition to sharing their own professional engagement or relevant national context on the issue of fake news.

- Muhammad Ashif Entaz Rabi

Ashif Rabi is a Bangladeshi blogger, social activist, and former TV show host on the front lines for the fight for free expression. He is currently a National Endowment for Democracy Fellow exploring ways to form responsible civic digital spaces.

- Yehven Fedchenko                             

Yehven Fedchenko is the Director of the Mohyla School of Journalism in Kyiv, Ukraine, and the co-founder of StopFake.org, a fact-checking project aimed at refuting fake news and misinformation in and about Ukraine.

- Dunja Mijatovic

Dunja Mijatovic, an expert on media law and regulation, is the former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, having served from 2010-2016.

- Andreas Vlachos

Andreas Vlachos is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield and Chief Research Scientist for Factmata, a British company using artificial intelligence to create and strengthen fact-checking tools.

- Rasha Abdulla 

Rasha Abdulla is an Associate Professor at the University of Cairo and an expert in social media and new media, particularly in the Arab world.

- Paolo Cesarini

Paolo Cesarini is head of unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition and will be speaking about upcoming EC efforts to address the issue of fake news.

3. Moderated Inter-Panelist Conversation (15-20 minutes)

Panelists will respond briefly to each other’s opening comments, prompted by questions from the Moderator where necessary.

4. Audience Questions (approx. 30 minutes, until end of Workshop)

The audience—both online and in-person—will be invited to join in discussion with the panelists, raising their own questions and (briefly) sharing their own experiences and perspectives where relevant.


Content of the Session:
The rise of “fake news”—which is primarily spread on the internet through the sharing of online articles and chain e-letters, and posts on social media platforms—has given rise to widespread concern about its negative societal impact, including influencing elections, undermining public faith in institutions, and eroding support for democratic principles. In response, governments and technology companies around the world are working quickly to curb its spread. However, some of the approaches being advanced have the potential to restrict free speech online, limit legitimate civic debate, and damage press freedom.

Proposed responses to fake news ranges wildly: from fining Internet platforms that don’t remove fake news, to government-initiated ‘take down notices’ against fake news purveyors, even to criminal punishment of “rumourmongers” and Internet shutdowns during elections. As this ongoing debate continues, it is vital to amplify voices from civil society, to help ensure that efforts to combat fake news do not unduly burden free expression online.


Tag 1: Freedom of Expression Online
Tag 2: Human Rights Online
Tag 3: Human Rights

Questions Posed:

• What role, if any, should the government play in combatting fake news? What are the different regulatory approaches to fake news being considered, and which ones are most or least consistent with free expression principles?

• What are the specific pros and cons of specific regulatory approaches being proposed?  E.g. proposals to fine social media providers who do not remove fake news in a timely manner; government-funded fact-checkers; government-initiated take-down notices against fake news purveyors; ‘media freezes’ or Internet shutdowns before major civic occasions

• What responsibilities do technology and social media companies bear for addressing fake news?
• What risks to free speech are entailed by efforts to curb the flow of misinformation? What are the tension points between free expression and the fight against ‘fake news’?
• What role can/should civil society play in combatting fake news online, and/or ensuring that government responses to ‘fake news’ do not infringe on our rights?