International Censorship Rules Are Underway

Disinformation, lies and hate have become such a major concern for groups all around the world that the United Nations is trying to do something about it.

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the UN, said on Monday that in addition to all these lies and hate that are being spewed on digital platforms, the threat artificial intelligence technology provides could create an uncontrolled “monster.” All of this demands global action to be coordinated together.

This all starts, Guterres said, with creating a code of conduct that advertisers, tech companies and governments would follow that would protect human rights and promote truth.

In the near future, the head of the UN said he would appoint a scientific advisory board to study and prepare initiatives that the group could take. That would be followed by an AI advisory board that will be appointed in September to do the same thing.

Guterres added that he would support the creation of a new agency at the UN focused on AI, and said that it could model the already-established International Atomic Energy Agency. That group holds regulatory powers and is knowledge-based.

At a Monday news conference, the UN head said that he would consult with many people and groups on the principles included in the UN Code of Conduct for Information Integrity on Digital Platforms. Those would then be issued in advance of the UN Summit of the Future, which will be held next year.

Guterres said he is hoping that the code would be supported throughout the world. Yet, reporters questioned whether tech companies and governments would take the necessary steps to make digital platforms safer. 

His response was telling:

“That’s the question I ask myself. We are dealing with a business that generates massive profits, and we are dealing also in some situations with governments that do not entirely respect human rights, so this is a constant battle. And in this constant battle, we must mobilize all those that are committed to information integrity in digital platforms.”

Others agree that the code of conduct is a great first step but likely won’t be enough on its own to stop all the hate and false information that’s being posted online. 

Heidi Beirich, who co-founded the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said that there needs to be other international solutions developed to this problem, which is affecting people all across the globe. She said:

“The fact of the matter is that voluntary codes, including the companies’ own terms of service on these issues, have failed to rein them in. The problem for the UN is they can’t do what it seems is going to have to be done to deal with this problem, which is basically legislation.”

There are already some initiatives underway, according to Gutterres. This includes a summit on AI safety that will be held in the UK in the fall. The European Union will also consider a new code of conduct and law regarding regulating the AI industry.

Yet, much more needs to be done to deal with this very real and big problem.