Module 8: ‘False News’, Misinformation and Propaganda
Summary Modules on Digital Rights and Freedom of Expression Online in sub-Saharan Africa
- ‘False news’ refers to news items that are intentionally and verifiably false, and seek to mislead readers.
- While acknowledging the social ills occasioned by false news and misinformation, courts and international actors maintain that general and over-broad provisions which criminalise false news and misinformation violate the right to freedom of expression.
- As a result, strategies to combat misinformation, at this stage, are more social and educational in their character. These include Media and Information Literacy (MIL) strategies and campaigns which focus on human rights, media, computer, intercultural, and privacy literacy as a holistic method of mitigating misinformation. These strategies may be complemented by social media verification, fact-checking, and the publication of counter-narratives.
- In limited instances, misinformation may constitute hate speech and litigation may be necessary. However, any litigation relating to expression should be fully considered for unintended consequences and the possibility of jurisprudence which may negatively impact freedom of expression.
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- Propaganda is dissimilar to misinformation in that it is expressly prohibited in international law, where it propagates for war or advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement.