Balancing Human Rights and Misinformation Amid COVID-19

Access Now has recently released Fighting Misinformation and Defending Free Expression During COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019]: Recommendations for States, a report aimed at guiding governments through combating misinformation while adhering to human rights policies. The main issue is that many policies enacted to limit misinformation may also infringe on a citizens right to freedom of expression and on the “right to receive and to impart information.” Several countries have already infringed upon these rights by restricting access to COVID-19 related content, spreading propaganda, and instituting physically enforced curfews affecting both citizens and media alike.

google mapsThe Access Now report recommends that governments be “transparent,” avoid hiding or manipulating information, and “protect journalists and their work.” Other key recommendations include: not using “criminal law for speech acts”; protecting whistleblowers; clearly defining “prohibited conduct”; confirming “proportionate” hate speech laws are enacted; avoiding tasking online platforms with disrupting disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech; avoiding the use of racist terms; and encouraging “accurate and responsible journalism.” It is recommended that governments adhere to international human rights standards when developing new laws and policies amid the coronavirus pandemic as they will impact nations post-crisis.


For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics or our In Focus topics on Cyber Crime & National SecurityCyber Infrastructure Protection, Cyber Policy, Electronic Surveillance, and Social Media Use in Emergencies. Other coronavirus related resources may be found in the COVID-19 Special Collection. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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