September 30, 2023

UN chief calls for coordinated global action against disinformation, hate and artificial intelligence

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The spread of hate and lies on digital platforms and the threat that artificial intelligence could become an uncontrolled “monster” call for coordinated global action – starting with a code of conduct for governments, technology companies and advertisers that truth and protects human rights, the UN chief said Monday.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he plans to appoint a scientific advisory board within days and an artificial intelligence advisory board in September to prepare initiatives for the UN to take. He said he would respond positively to a new UN agency for artificial intelligence and suggested as a model the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is knowledge-based and has some regulatory powers.

Guterres told a news conference that he plans to consult widely on the just released principles for the UN Code of Conduct for Information Integrity on Digital Platforms, which he will publish ahead of next year’s UN Summit of the Future.

He expressed hope that the code will gain widespread support, but when asked if governments and tech companies are willing to take steps to make the digital space more secure, he replied: “That’s the question I’m asking myself.”

“We are dealing with a company that generates huge profits, and we are also dealing in some situations with governments that do not fully respect human rights, so this is an ongoing battle – and in this ongoing battle, we must mobilize all those who welfare.” committed to information integrity on digital platforms,” he said.

Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, agreed that while it is a positive step that the UN is calling for international solutions to this global problem, its code of conduct will probably not be enough to stem the deluge of false and hateful information online.

“The fact is that voluntary codes, including the companies’ own terms of service regarding these issues, have failed to curb them,” Beirich said. “The problem for the UN is that they can’t do what seems to need to be done to address this problem, which is actually legislation.”

Guterres said many initiatives are underway, including a law and code of conduct in the European Union for its 27 member states and a UK summit on AI safety in the fall. Other governments are also investigating forms of regulation. But he said there is a view that regulation is not easy because things move very fast, and therefore a global approach is needed.

Guterres said a key issue is that the tech company’s business model prioritizes engagement over privacy, truth and human rights. He said tech companies need to understand that huge profits cannot be created “at the expense of a model of engagement that overrides every other consideration.”

The UN chief said the code of conduct will not be a solution, “but it will be global” and it will enable governments, tech companies, advertisers and others “to commit to what needs to be done to ensure or at least to seriously promoting information integrity on digital platforms.”

Guterres’ principles for the code of conduct include commitments “to refrain from using, supporting or amplifying disinformation and hate speech for any purpose. ”

For governments, it seeks commitments not to respond to misinformation, disinformation and hate speech by blocking legitimate comments, shutting down the internet or banning platforms or media outlets – and ensuring protections for journalists and independent media outlets.

For companies that control digital platforms, it takes a pledge to be transparent about their algorithms, advertising and how they handle disinformation, disinformation and hate speech – and to eliminate double standards that allow hate speech and disinformation to thrive in some languages ​​and countries , while in others they are better prevented. Tech companies are also being urged to give people more choice about the content they see and how their data is used.

Guterres said a commitment requested from digital platforms includes “urgent and immediate action to ensure that all AI applications are safe, secure, accountable, ethical and comply with human rights obligations.”

He said the United Nations will “try to be at the center of all the networks and movements that will be created” to address AI technology as it develops. But he said this will not be easy because governments and international organizations have not invested enough in staff with the necessary scientific and technical knowledge in recent decades.

“It also requires the commitment of the platforms themselves and the AI ​​makers themselves,” said Guterres, “but we will do our best to be a platform where everyone can be together to move this agenda forward positively.”


Ali Swenson contributed to this report from New York.

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