Module 8: ‘False news’, misinformation and propaganda
Modules on Litigating Freedom of Expression and Digital Rights in South and Southeast Asia
- ‘False news’ refers to news items that are intentionally and verifiably false, and seek to mislead readers. Disinformation is any information that is spread in the knowledge that it is false. Misinformation is false information that is spread but where the person who is responsible for that does not know that it is false.
- While acknowledging the social ills may be occasioned by false news and misinformation, courts and international standards indicate that general provisions which criminalise false news and misinformation violate the right to freedom of expression.
- As a result, strategies to combat dis- and misinformation, need to be more social and educational in their character. These include media and information literacy (MIL) strategies and campaigns which focus on human rights, media, digital, intercultural, and privacy literacy as a holistic method of mitigating the impact of dis- and misinformation. These strategies may be complemented by social media verification, fact-checking, and the prioritisation of reliable content and the publication of counter-narratives.
- In limited instances, dis- and misinformation may constitute hate speech, the dissemination of which may be criminal in nature. However, any litigation relating to expression should be fully considered for unintended consequences and the possibility of impacts which may undermine freedom of expression.
- Propaganda for war is dissimilar to dis- and misinformation in that international law expressly calls for it to be prohibited.