ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission Report

On Tuesday 29 September, the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development launched their global report, “Balancing Act: Countering digital disinformation while respecting freedom of expression.” This research was led by Prof. Kalina Bontcheva (University of Sheffield)  and Dr. Julie Posetti (International Center for Journalists) along with international researchers and contributing authors, including Prof. Trisha Meyer (VECO-IES). The work charts the wide range of responses to disinformation across the world, focusing on the effects of these measures on freedom of opinion and expression. Research took place between September 2019 and July 2020. The findings have been organized systematically into categories of responses to disinformation:

  • identification responses aimed at identifying, debunking, and exposing disinformation (monitoring, fact checking, investigations)
  • responses aimed at producers and distributors of disinformation through altering the information environment (legislative and policy responses, counter disinformation campaigns, electoral responses)
  • responses aimed at production and distribution (related to curation, algorithms, and demonetization) and responses aimed at the targeted audiences of disinformation campaigns (ethical, educational, and empowering responses).

The study finds that these responses are often complementary and collaborative. But there are also cases of interference (ie: journalists getting caught in the net of ‘fake news’ laws). The report advocates for a multi-faceted approach that addresses the socio-economic drivers of disinformation, rebuilds trust in democratic institutions and strengthens social cohesion amidst polarization while addressing the business models that thrive on paid disinformation.

Prof. Trisha Meyer is the lead author of the chapters mapping and evaluating government and platform responses to disinformation. In addition to a lengthy read in the report, you can find her recap of platform responses on EU Disinfolab's website.