OECD: More action needed to tackle disinformation and enhance transparency of online platforms

As roughly half the world's population prepares to vote in elections, a new report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) offers the first baseline assessment of how OECD countries are upgrading their governance measures to support an environment where reliable information can thrive, prioritising freedom of expression and human rights, and sets out a policy framework for countries to address the global challenge of disinformation.

Facts not fakes: Tackling disinformation, strengthening information integrity emphasises the need for democracies to champion diverse, high-quality information spaces that support freedom of opinion and expression, along with policies that may be utilised to increase the degree of accountability and transparency of online platforms.
The report details specific risks, including the spread of disinformation during electoral periods, foreign information manipulation and interference campaigns, and the implications of generative artificial intelligence. Based in part on a survey of 23 OECD countries, the report includes case studies and provides recommendations on how governments can play a positive but not intrusive role in this area. It reveals that national strategies for tackling disinformation remain the exception rather than the rule.

“Tackling disinformation must never be about controlling information. We need a sound, appropriately well-balanced policy approach to ensure citizens have the benefit of an open and robust information environment in which they can debate freely and build consensus. Free, open and robust debate is fundamental to tackling the complex policy challenges of our time,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said. “No single democracy can solve the problem of rising disinformation on its own, but every democracy can support independent and diverse journalism, encourage accountability and transparency of online platforms, and help build citizens’ media literacy to encourage critical consumption of content, to address the challenge of disinformation and its corrosive effect on trust.”

“The disinformation facilitated by digital communication platforms is dividing pro-European civil society and is weakening its ability to act together,” Pavel Antonov, executive editor of civil action network BlueLink, said. According to him, the problems in the democratic socio-political environment, caused by social media communication, cannot be solved without strong regulatory actions on European and national level.

“Corporations whose profits come from emotion and misinformation cannot protect facts and science-based information through their corporate mechanisms,” Antonov said. His observations are based on BlueLink's experience and analysis, including the recently published report Free Online: Are democratic, environmentalist and pro-European voices unfairly treated by Facebook in Bulgaria and how shall we stop that?

As a key pillar of the OECD’s Reinforcing Democracy Initiative, the report presents a policy framework to strengthen information integrity that encourages action across societies, in three areas:
• Enhance the transparency, accountability, and plurality of information sources, including through a diverse and independent media sector as well as better functioning online platforms.
• Strengthen media literacy and critical thinking skills to enable citizens to recognise, combat and limit the spread of disinformation.
• Bolster strategic co-ordination, training, and technological infrastructure in government, as well as peer-learning and co-operation among governments to combat disinformation.