The Foreign Minister of Pakistan Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has delivered the keynote address during the First Meeting of Group of Friends on Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The following are his full remarks at the meeting;
“Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Like many other countries, Pakistan, and our people, have been the victims of targeted campaigns of disinformation. Indeed, in this Information Age, Disinformation has emerged as a global pandemic.
The exponential proliferation of disinformation, especially through on-line platforms and social media, has spread social discord; fostered hate speech, racism, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia; and exacerbated competing nationalisms and inter-state tensions and conflict. Disinformation has often justified and intensified the violations of human rights. And, “hybrid warfare”, pursued through disinformation, is often the opening salvo of intervention and conflict.
This pandemic of disinformation must be confronted, countered and defeated at the national and international level. We can succeed in doing so only through comprehensive international cooperation.
Pakistan, together with a number of like-minded countries, took the initiative last year in the UN General Assembly against disinformation. These painstaking efforts led to the adoption of the landmark General Assembly resolution No. 76/227 on “Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”. This was the first formal effort by the UN Member States to develop an agreed international response to the scourge of disinformation.
This “Group of Friends” has been established to promote the implementation of that resolution. We are grateful to all the countries who have joined the Group. They represent all the regions of the world.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Utilizing this platform, we should agree on an International Plan of Action to counter disinformation, on-line and off-line, in the public and private domain.
On behalf of Pakistan, I would like to suggest the following actions:
First, we should enhance public awareness about disinformation through information campaigns promoted by Member States and the United Nations and build societal resistance and resilience against disinformation.
Second, we should enhance the capacity of governments and their relevant institutions to detect, analyze and expose disinformation and disinformation campaigns and networks. To this end, the UN and its agencies should help to build the capacity of Member States, especially the developing countries, to analyze, fact-check and filter information, especially on-line information.
Moreover, financial and technical support should be extended to national and international researchers and institutions which are involved in detecting disinformation. The UN Department of Information can play a critical role in this context.
Such a concerted international effort can help to expose and dismantle disinformation networks – some of which have been operating against my country for over 30 years.
Third, we should make a concerted effort, through cooperation, to minimize the negative impact of disinformation on human rights and relations between communities and States, by building firewalls against false information, ensuring transparency, adhering to human rights principles, such as respect for personal privacy and reputation, preventing the propagation of racism, discrimination and hate speech. The UN can develop a compendium of “best practices” and guidelines for actions, including through the use of advanced technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), to serve as guidelines for National and international action.
Fourth, the UN’s human rights mechanisms should highlight the negative impact of disinformation on the enjoyment of human rights and, for their part, also exercise due diligence in the use of unsubstantiated or questionable information in evaluating human rights situations.
Fifth, the UN should develop rules, standards and regulations for adherence by the private sector, social media companies and other non-governmental actors. Such standards must also enforce transparency rules on the media and social platforms.
Sixth, to discharge its extensive role and responsibilities, the UN Secretary-General should create an inter-Agency Task Force on Disinformation and appoint a Focal Point, for regular and on-going interactions with Member States, the private media and on-line companies and other stakeholders.
Finally, the UN, perhaps through its Committee on Information, should open a comprehensive dialogue, led by Member States, and with the participation of the private sector, business enterprises, media and social media platforms and civil society stakeholders, to develop a coherent consensus on international cooperation to combat disinformation.
I wish the Group every success in its endeavors.
I thank you.”