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FM urges UN to form task force to combat global disinformation

Bilawal says disinformation has become a ‘global pandemic’

Warning that disinformation has become a ‘global pandemic’, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday urged the United Nations to form an inter-agency task force to combat disinformation that could hold regular interactions with member states and other stakeholders.

Delivering a virtual address to a meeting of the Group of Friends on Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Bilawal said that the world must have an international plan of action to “counter disinformation online and offline, in the public and private domain”. Established by Pakistan, the group has representation from all regions of the world and seeks the implementation of the landmark General Assembly resolution 76/227 on Countering Disinformation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which was adopted by consensus last year.

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“Utilizing this platform, we should agree on an International Plan of Action to counter disinformation, online and offline, in the public and private domain,” he said. “The exponential proliferation of disinformation, especially through online platforms and social media, has spread social discord, fostered hate speech, racism, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia and exacerbated competing nationalisms and inter-state tensions and conflict,” the foreign minister warned.

“Disinformation has often justified and intensified the violations of human rights.” He urged the member states and the United Nations to enhance public awareness about disinformation through information campaigns.

“We should enhance the capacity of governments and their relevant institutions to detect, analyze and expose disinformation and disinformation campaigns and networks,” he said. “We should make a concerted effort, through cooperation, to minimize the negative impact of disinformation on human rights and relations between communities and states by building firewalls against false information, ensuring transparency, adhering to human rights principles such as respect for personal privacy and reputation, preventing the propagation of  racism, discrimination and hate speech.”

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Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Munir Akram, who moderated the virtual event, thanked the participants, saying the ‘Group of Friends’ provides a platform for deliberations to member states to discuss means to counter disinformation and raise awareness. “Countering the scourge of disinformation is a shared responsibility, which requires international cooperation and solidarity,” he said.

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