Democracy & Disinformation

FULL TEXT: Maria Ressa, Dmitry Muratov’s 10-point plan to address the information crisis

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FULL TEXT: Maria Ressa, Dmitry Muratov’s 10-point plan to address the information crisis

ACTION PLAN. The Nobel Peace Prize exhibit is unveiled on December 11, 2021 in Oslo, Norway.

Hannah Reyes Morales

'When facts become optional and trust disappears, we will no longer be able to hold power to account,' say Nobel Peace Prize laureates Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov

Presented by 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureates Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov at the Freedom of Expression Conference, Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, Norway, on September 2, 2022.

We call for a world in which technology is built in service of humanity and where our global public square protects human rights above profits.

Right now, the huge potential of technology to advance our societies has been undermined by the business model and design of the dominant online platforms. But we remind all those in power that true human progress comes from harnessing technology to advance rights and freedoms for all, not sacrificing them for the wealth and power of a few.

We urge rights-respecting democracies to wake up to the existential threat of information ecosystems being distorted by a Big Tech business model fixated on harvesting people’s data and attention, even as it undermines serious journalism and polarizes debate in society and political life.

When facts become optional and trust disappears, we will no longer be able to hold power to account. We need a public sphere where fostering trust with a healthy exchange of ideas is valued more highly than corporate profits and where rigorous journalism can cut through the noise.

‘We must act now’: Ressa, Muratov launch action plan vs Big Tech information crisis

‘We must act now’: Ressa, Muratov launch action plan vs Big Tech information crisis

Many governments around the world have exploited these platforms’ greed to grab and consolidate power. That is why they also attack and muzzle the free press. Clearly, these governments cannot be trusted to address this crisis. But nor should we put our rights in the hands of technology companies’ intent on sustaining a broken business model that actively promotes disinformation, hate speech and abuse.

The resulting toxic information ecosystem is not inevitable. Those in power must do their part to build a world that puts human rights, dignity, and security first, including by safeguarding scientific and journalistic methods and tested knowledge. To build that world, we must:

Bring an end to the surveillance-for-profit business model

The invisible ‘editors’ of today’s information ecosystem are the opaque algorithms and recommender systems built by tech companies that track and target us. They amplify misogyny, racism, hate, junk science and disinformation – weaponizing every societal fault line with relentless surveillance to maximize “engagement”. This surveillance-for-profit business model is built on the con of our supposed consent. But forcing us to choose between allowing platforms and data brokers to feast on our personal data or being shut out from the benefits of the modern world is simply no choice at all. The vast machinery of corporate surveillance not only abuses our right to privacy, but allows our data to be used against us, undermining our freedoms and enabling discrimination.

This unethical business model must be reined in globally, including by bringing an end to surveillance advertising that people never asked for and of which they are often unaware. Europe has made a start, with the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts. Now these must be enforced in ways that compel platforms to de-risk their design, detox their algorithms and give users real control. Privacy and data rights, to date largely notional, must also be properly enforced. And advertisers must use their money and influence to protect their customers against a tech industry that is actively harming people.

End tech discrimination and treat people everywhere equally

Global tech companies afford people unequal rights and protection depending on their status, power, nationality, and language. We have seen the painful and destructive consequences of tech companies’ failure to prioritize the safety of all people everywhere equally. Companies must be legally required to rigorously assess human rights risks in every country they seek to expand in, ensuring proportionate language and cultural competency. They must also be forced to bring their closed-door decisions on content moderation and algorithm changes into the light and end all special exemptions for those with the most power and reach. These safety, design, and product choices that affect billions of people cannot be left to corporations to decide. Transparency and accountability rules are an essential first step to reclaiming the internet for the public good.

Rebuild independent journalism as the antidote to tyranny

Big tech platforms have unleashed forces that are devastating independent media by swallowing up online advertising while simultaneously enabling a tech-fueled tsunami of lies and hate that drown out facts. For facts to stand a chance, we must end the amplification of disinformation by tech platforms. But this alone is not enough. Just 13% of the world’s population can currently access a free press. If we are to hold power to account and protect journalists, we need unparalleled investment in a truly independent media persevering in situ or working in exile that ensures its sustainability while incentivizing compliance with ethical norms in journalism.

21st century newsrooms must also forge a new, distinct path, recognizing that to advance justice and rights, they must represent the diversity of the communities they serve. Governments must ensure the safety and independence of journalists who are increasingly being attacked, imprisoned, or killed on the frontlines of this war on facts.

We, as Nobel Laureates, from across the world, send a united message: together we can end this corporate and technological assault on our lives and liberties, but we must act now. It is time to implement the solutions we already have to rebuild journalism and reclaim the technological architecture of global conversation for all humanity.

We call on all rights-respecting democratic governments to:

1. Require tech companies to carry out independent human rights impact assessments that must be made public as well as demand transparency on all aspects of their business – from content moderation to algorithm impacts to data processing to integrity policies.

2. Protect citizens’ right to privacy with robust data protection laws.

3. Publicly condemn abuses against the free press and journalists globally and commit funding and assistance to independent media and journalists under attack.

We call on the EU to:

4. Be ambitious in enforcing the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts so these laws amount to more than just ‘new paperwork’ for the companies and instead force them to make changes to their business model, such as ending algorithmic amplification that threatens fundamental rights and spreads disinformation and hate, including in cases where the risks originate outside EU borders.

5. Urgently propose legislation to ban surveillance advertising, recognizing this practice is fundamentally incompatible with human rights.

6. Properly enforce the EU General Data Protection Regulation so that people’s data rights are finally made reality.

7. Include strong safeguards for journalists’ safety, media sustainability and democratic guarantees in the digital space in the forthcoming European Media Freedom Act.

8. Protect media freedom by cutting off disinformation upstream. This means there should be no special exemptions or carve-outs for any organisation or individual in any new technology or media legislation. With globalized information flows, this would give a blank check to those governments and non-state actors who produce industrial scale disinformation to harm democracies and polarize societies everywhere.

9. Challenge the extraordinary lobbying machinery, the astroturfing campaigns and recruitment revolving door between big tech companies and European government institutions.

We call on the UN to:

10. Create a special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General focused on the Safety of Journalists (SESJ) who would challenge the current status quo and finally raise the cost of crimes against journalists.

Signed by:

Dmitry Muratov, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Maria Ressa, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Endorsed by:
  1. Amnesty International, 1977 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  2. Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director, ICAN – the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  3. Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  4. Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  5. Juan Manuel Santos, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  6. Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  7. Nadia Murad, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  8. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  9. Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
  10. Alexandra Geese, Member of the European Parliament
  11. Bruce Mutsvairo, Associate Professor, Media and Performance Studies, University of Utrecht
  12. Can Dundar, Turkish journalist in exile
  13. Carole Cadwalladr, Guardian & Observer journalist & co-founder, The Real Facebook Oversight Board
  14. Christophe Deloire, Chair of the Forum on Information and Democracy
  15. David Carroll, Associate Professor of Media Design, The New School
  16. Frances Haugen, Facebook Whistleblower
  17. Gerard Ryle, Director, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
  18. Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion
  19. Julie Posetti, Deputy Vice President and Global Director of Research, International Center for Journalists
  20. Khadija Patel, Chair of the International Press Institute
  21. Marietje Schaake, Stanford Cyber Policy Center
  22. Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, International Advisor, Danish Union of Journalists
  23. Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins University
  24. Paul Tang, Member of the European Parliament
  25. Phumzile van Damme, Ethical Tech Activist and Former South Africa MP
  26. Roger McNamee, former advisor to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe
  27. Safiya Umoja Noble, MacArthur Fellow, Professor, and Author, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
  28. Shoshana Zuboff, Author, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism; Professor Emeritus Harvard Business School; Co-Chair Steering Committee, International Observatory on Information and Democracy
  29. Staffan I. Lindberg, Professor of Political Science, University of Gothenburg
  30. Susie Alegre, Human Rights Lawyer and Author of Freedom to Think: The Long Struggle to Liberate Our Minds
  31. Access Now
  32. Alliance4Europe
  33. All Out Action Fund
  34. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  35. Avaaz
  36. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  37. Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations
  38. Centre for Peace Studies
  39. Corporate Europe Observatory
  40. Digitalcourage e.V.
  41. Digital Society, Switzerland
  42. Defend Democracy
  43. Demos
  44. Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz (DVD)
  45. digiQ
  46. D64 – Zentrum für Digitalen Fortschritt (Center for Digital Progress)
  47. Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi)
  48. Elektronisk Forpost Norge
  49. Estonian Human Rights Centre
  50. European Digital Rights (EDRi)
  51. EU DisinfoLab
  52. European Federation of Public Service Unions
  53. Freedom United
  54. Free Expression Myanmar
  55. Free Press (United States)
  56. Foxglove
  57. Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
  58. Global Witness
  59. Human Rights Watch
  60. Hacked Off
  61. HateAid
  62. I Am Here International
  63. Irish Council of Civil Liberties
  64. KaskoSan Roma Charity
  65. Kofi Annan Foundation
  66. Larger Us
  67. Lie Detectors
  68. Luminate
  69. Movement Against Disinformation, Philippines
  70. Nadia’s Initiative
  71. National Center on Race and Digital Justice (U.S.)
  72. Open Rights Group
  73. Panoptykon Foundation
  74. People vs. Big Tech
  75. Progressive Voice Myanmar
  76. Rappler
  77. Ranking Digital Rights
  78. Reporters Sans Frontières
  79. Simply Secure
  80. Stiftung Neue Verantwortung
  81. Stichting the London Story
  82. SUPERRR Lab
  83. SumofUs
  84. The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)
  85. The Coalition for Women in Journalism
  86. The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
  87. The Fritt Ord Foundation
  88. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue
  89. The Legal Resources Centre
  90. The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association
  91. The Real Facebook Oversight Board
  92. The Signals Network
  93. Transparency International EU
  94. UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry
  95. Victims Advocate International
  96. Waag
  97. WeMove Europe
  98. Wikimedia Deutschland
  99. 5 Rights Foundation
  100. #jesuislà
  101. #ShePersisted

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