HomeTechUK at UN: Tech Fuels Misinformation Spread, Alters Communication

UK at UN: Tech Fuels Misinformation Spread, Alters Communication

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Thank you Chair, and I would also like to thank the secretariat and commend Under-Secretary-General Fleming and the Department of Global Communications for its work, including on the Global Principles for Information Integrity.

Chair, for the world to come together to tackle global challenges, people need first to understand what the problems are and to know what needs to be done to fix them. This room is full of experienced diplomats used to reading lengthy policy documents and negotiated resolutions. But out in the real world, the people whom we represent get their information from stories and images that bring these issues to life and give them context and meaning to their everyday lives. UN communicators have such an important role to play around the world in getting those stories and that trusted information out there in many languages, and the UK supports them delivering this crucial mandate.

Chair I would like to make three points.

First. about the changing information landscape that we face today.

Rapid technological shifts in how information is shared have been the driving force behind many of humanity’s greatest innovations. From the printing press to the internet, the benefits we’ve derived from greater access to and a faster flow of knowledge have been immeasurable and played a crucial role in development and the expansion of human rights around the world.

Today we are on the cusp of another technological revolution that already has massive implications for communications, and that will have many more positive and negative consequences, including some that we cannot yet imagine.

Generative artificial intelligence, as many of my colleagues have already said, has enormous potential but it also creates new risks and amplifies existing ones around information manipulation, mis and disinformation, with the ability to create and distribute highly realistic manipulated imagery, video, and audio at unprecedented speed and scale.

The level of realism may increase susceptibility to disinformation among populations and could be used to generate fear and division, for example through election interference, and in conflicts.

We will need to cooperate to manage these challenges and it will require an inclusive approach. Social media companies, the tech sector and civil society will need to work with government to tackle AI generated manipulation and interference in the information environment.

Second, the UK is deeply concerned by the threat already posed by disinformation to UN peacekeeping operations. A 2022 survey found that nearly half of all UN peacekeepers consider mis- and disinformation threatens their safety and security and obstructs missions from doing lifesaving work.

We know that some of this disinformation promoted by malign actors is designed to discredit the UN and turn local populations against UN peacekeepers. This is dangerous and irresponsible, and all Member States should condemn it.

We encourage a system-wide approach to strengthen information integrity and address the threat posed by foreign information manipulation directed at peacekeeping operations and personnel.

We must also build global resilience against foreign information manipulation and interference and tackle the malign activity of hostile actors in the information environment.

And I echo the concerns of my Ukrainian colleague so eloquently made today. The UK will continue to stand with Ukraine, defend the UN Charter, and call out Russian disinformation.

As part of this, we should promote trustworthy information, while ensuring the protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights, including the principles of freedom of expression, media freedom and information integrity.

This brings me to my third point, Chair.

The UK stands for the principle that good, independent journalism reported freely, without fear, is essential for a democratic and just society. It’s also essential to realising the ideals of the UN Charter.

However, instead of allowing journalists to freely and safely do their job, many countries around the world intimidate and even criminalise journalists for accurate reporting.

The UK believes all people must be able to discuss and debate issues freely, to challenge their governments, and to make informed decisions. The UK reiterates its call for Russia to immediately release Vladimir Kara-Murza on humanitarian grounds. Russia must also release Evan Gershkovich whose detention illustrates its disregard

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