Udayavni Special

Disinformation being used to interfere in internal affairs of countries: India


Team Udayavani, Jan 25, 2021, 12:48 PM IST

United Nations: India has called on technology companies to ensure transparency and a check on misinformation on their platforms, cautioning that there is a growing tendency of foreign interference in the internal affairs of other countries through disinformation campaigns.

Addressing the Arria-formula meeting on media freedom in Belarus organised by the Estonian Permanent Mission on Friday, India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K. Nagaraj Naidu said that the information revolution has both benefited and weakened media systems.

“Today, the global economy of disinformation rests on the complex interaction between data sets, algorithms and information infrastructure built by technology companies. These algorithms govern not just what information is available to different populations, but also to whom, and with what frequency,” Naidu said.

“As such, tech companies have the obligation to make sure that the platforms they have deployed are transparent and their users are not misinformed,” he said.

Sounding a note of caution, Naidu said there is also a “growing tendency of foreign interference in the internal affairs of other countries through use of disinformation campaigns to advance ulterior political agendas.”

In June last year, India, along with 12 other like-minded countries, co-sponsored the Cross-Regional Statement on “Infodemic” in the context of COVID-19, the first-of-its-kind statement by UN member states to counter the increase in hate speech and misinformation during the pandemic.

While media outlets can today reach billions of new information consumers, the same technological transformation has left fewer channels with accurate and reliable information, he contended.

Anti-democratic and other malign actors have been quick to perceive opportunities to spread disinformation and fuel polarisation, he said.

“Disinformation campaigns that crowd out credible information, alongside other manipulation techniques, have thus emerged as a significant threat to media freedom,” he added.

Naidu emphasised that India has never been in support of initiatives that target or single out a specific member state. “We strongly advocate the use of a cooperative, inclusive, transparent and peaceful dialogue process rather than finger pointing to discuss issues of friction. We need to bring a more cooperative framework of working methods on such issues in order to have effective results.”

He said India and Belarus enjoy a comprehensive partnership and have established mechanisms for exchanging views on bilateral, regional, and multilateral issues.

“We underscore the need for constructive engagement by the international community with the Belarusian government. India stands ready to render all possible help in this regard,” Naidu said.

He stressed on the right to express freely and without any fear, calling it critical to open democracies like India, where the framers of the Constitution have maintained that curtailment of freedom of expression inevitably leads to restrictions on other fundamental human rights.

He told the meeting that every year November 16 is observed in India as the National Press Day.

Speaking on the occasion, last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that “be it positive criticism or highlighting success stories, the media has been continuously adding strength to India’s democratic ethos. From creating mass awareness about important issues to contributing to a behavioural change in society for the larger good, we have seen how the media, as a valued stakeholder, has furthered the efforts of the government.”

The media landscape in India is the world’s largest with more than 17,500 newspapers and over 100,000 magazines in circulation, and over 400 exclusive television news channels and countless websites in dozens of languages, Naidu said.

Noting that World Press Freedom Day, celebrated every year on May 3, is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics, Naidu said “any illegal arrests, detention or torture or threat of reprisal of journalists, in the course of performing their duties, must be condemned.”

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