On February 15, the Technology and Social Change Team at the Harvard Shorenstein Center (TaSC) submitted a comment drafted by the Cyberlaw Clinic to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan. The call for comments was issued in anticipation of the Special Rapporteur’s upcoming report on the relationship between disinformation and freedom of expression that will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2021. The Special Rapporteur welcomed contributions that addressed how human rights law applies to disinformation, what impact of measures already taken to address disinformation has had on human rights, and any recommendations on how to protect human rights while addressing disinformation.
The comment discusses how disinformation presents a threat to the human right of freedom of expression, which encompasses the right to have access to information. Harms caused by disinformation include:
- making it harder to access timely, relevant, and accurate information;
- taking advantage of algorithmic amplification to intentionally mislead people; and
- silencing targeted victims through harassment, incitement or fear, or by crowding out their words, opinions, and other forms of expression.
To balance the right to express oneself with the right to access the expressions of others, including time-sensitive, true, and necessary information, TaSC recommends adopting community-based curation methods for internet content. A proactive curation policy that is grounded in community input, coupled with moderation when necessary, can create an information ecosystem that promotes truth over sensationalism, accuracy over popularity, and that can additionally be subject to more effective oversight.
Spring 2021 Cyberlaw Clinic students Clara Carvalho e Silva and Melyssa Eigen worked with Clinical Instructor Mason Kortz and TaSC to draft the comment.