IGF 2018 WS #415 Countering misinformation online: policies and solutions

Salle VII

Organizer 1: Sadaf Khan, Media Matters for Democracy
Organizer 2: Asad Baig, Media Matters for Democracy
Organizer 3: Talal Raza, Media Matters for Democracy Pakistan

Speaker 1: Ellery Biddle, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Padraig Hughes, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Sheen Handoo, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Asad Baig, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Anja Kovacs, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Additional Speakers

Rosyln Moore, DW Akademie, Female 

Online Moderator

Panel - 90 Min


The panel is divided into two main sections - first civil society representatives including those from digital rights organisations and media organisations would present different dimensions of the challenge and explore why it is challenging to legislate around misinformation related challenges. The second phase includes corporate perspective from Facebook, identifying key challenges of content regulation through intermediary policies applied by platforms like Facebook. In both sessions, the speakers will be using presentations to explain the issues to participants. The moderator will connect the panelists on email before IGF starts so everyone can share and discuss presentation and talking points. This connection will help ensure that each speaker is able to bring unique and different perspectives to the panel and there isn't any unnecessary repetition of points. Ten minutes allotted fro initial question and answers by the moderator leading into audience engagement sessions will help create a conversational tone,which lends itself well to interesting and effective participation.


The proposed panel includes three women. With its current composition, the panel includes a higher number of women. Three regional groups are represented in the speakers list. Different stakeholder communities including media, civil society and private sector are also represented. We do not have a confirmed government speaker on the panel yet, however, we have reached out to one and if confirmed we will also be able to add the government perspective. The panel consists mostly of young professionals, which fulfils the inclusion of youth criteria. We hope that our online engagement strategy, that is to be implemented a week before the session, will help us get more diversity in remote participants as well.

Intended Agenda of the Session Introduction, Talal Raza, MMfD (5 minutes) - Misinformation and journalism, Ellery, Global Voices (5 minutes) - Media Litercy and FakeNews, Rosyln Moore, DW Akademie (5 minutes) The conflict of regulating misinformation while protecting freedom of expression - Asad Baig, MMfD (5 minutes) Moderator Q & A with speakers (10 minutes) Audience engagement (20 minutes) The balancing act for Facebook, Sheen, Facebook (5 minutes) Balancing FoE and misinformation - an overview of related state legislation, Padrig Hughes, Media Legal Defence Initiative (5 minutes) Moderator Q & A with speakers (10 minutes) Audience engagement (20 minutes)

Fake News is a phenomena that has a direct impact on all internet users. Thus, we are expecting robust engagement from audience members. To make sure that this engagement goes beyond simple experience sharing, the moderator will also ask questions of the audience, ensuring that expertise and experiences shared during the session are not limited to those of the panelists alone. As detailed in the agenda, a total of 40 minutes have been allocated for audience engagement in two separate slots. We hope that the format of this panel i.e. two sets of experts engagement and panel discussion will help participants frame their thoughts better and allow them to have more room for meaningful engagement.

The internet is a truly amazing medium that has completely revolutionised the information landscape across the world. However, the same technology has also been used to facilitate the spread of fake news and misinformation. These stories are no longer limited to random hoax messages of even phishing scams but have now been organised and mobilised in such manners that they have had direct impacts on political decision making. Not only does the internet lends itself to the dissemination of misinformation at next to no cost, but, the presence of big data and the lack of transparency around corporate policies mean that this data can be used to target the most vulnerable audience. However, policy interventions are challenging. How does one crack down on ‘trolls’ without taking away the right to anonymity? If the right to freedom of expression is recognised and celebrated, can pieces of fake news, that are not defamatory, contemptuous or inciting violence really be targeted by regulators without compromising on principles of proptionality? How do you legislate against a phonomena where one piece of content might mean nothing but can do harm as a [art of a larger group? In this panel we will explore the impact of misinformation on journalism, political decision making and discuss how to legislate and create corporate policies around this issue without compromising on the basic right of freedom of expression.

Online Participation

The preparation for online participation will begin before IGF - MMfD will be creating teasers, infographics and digital posters for its social media followers inviting discussion on the theme. Brief polls will also be created on Twitter and Facebook to encourage interaction from MMfD's online followers on the theme. This brief engagement campaign will lead to details about remote participation and solicitation of any questions that people have for the panel speakers. We will also try and engage one or more of the speakers in a pre-even FB or Twitter interview to plug into their social media base, increasing the chance of remote participation from a higher number of people who are directly interested in the theme. At the time of the event, the online moderator would continue to engage with the remote participants and ensure that teh onsite moderator picks up their comments and questions and puts them forward to the speaker.

Session Time
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

IGF 2018 Report



IGF 2018 WS #415 Countering misinformation online: policies and solutions


Date & Time

14 November 2018, 11:50 to 13:20



Asad Baig, Media Matters for Democracy
Talal Raza, Media Matters for Democracy Pakistan



Asad Baig, Media Matters for Democracy, Male



Talal Raza, Media Matters for Democracy Pakistan



Ishara Danasekara, Co-Editor www.vikalpa.org/ Civic Media Team, Center For Policy Alternatives, Female  

Padraig Hughes, Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), Male 
Rosyln Moore, DW Akademie, Female  



Media and Content 





Three (3) key messages of the discussion

  1. Misinformation is an important tool used by political stakeholders across the spectrum in the Global South including Pakistan and Sri lanka.  In some instances misinformation is being perpetuated and spread in dynamic ways.
  2. The fact that people are unable to identify misinformation and share it as true information is troublesome. There is a need to raise awareness among the people as well.
  3. We need new approaches for the Global South to counter misinformation. Solutions from the global north may not be as effective as they are deemed.

Discussion Synthesis


Different ways of spreading misinformation were identified, including spread by fake accounts of known personalities and then through public who unknowingly spread it further as they have faith in the source who originally shared the information with them. Unfortunately mainstream media is perpetuating the misinformation.  The panel also discussed possibility of rigid and regressive laws in an attempt to regulate and criminalize misinformation, thus making its prevalence a threat to freedom of expression.


Research, documentation of structures involved in deliberately spreading misinformation and production of high quality journalistic and information products were discussed as possible ways of countering misinformation.


There was general agreement that the challenge is such that a multi pronged, multi-stakeholder approach would be needed to effectively counter it.  There was detailed discussion on the need to increase the emphasis on digital media information literacy, DMIL, as an approach to counter the impact of misinformation.


Policy recommendations / suggestions regarding the way forward and potential next steps


Different approaches are being proposed to counter misinformation. These include solutions like media literacy and fact checking. Some noted that media literacy and fact checking are discussed as solutions especially in the global north, they overlook nuances of global south.


However, one suggestion that was repeatedly given and endorsed was the need for a more effective multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the challenges of misinformation. 


Participants suggested exploring the possibility of creating and operationalizing a group comprising media, civil society, government, private sector et al.


What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue?  

There was a general consensus that one-size fit all response to misinformation cannot be effective. This reflects the need for a discussion on a platform that allows north/south engagement.  

Taking lead from the best practice forum on local content in 2017, IGF secretariat might consider operationalizing a similar forum on fake news in order to create background documents and recommendations that are rooted in real examples from a range of communities and regions.   


Total number of participants

50-70 participants


Total number of women and gender-variant individuals present

50% women, 50% men


To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion?

Gender specific concerns were not deconstructed in detail and the issues of gender were discussed as a part of the larger discussion on the disproportionate impact of misinformation and disinformation campaigns on traditionally marginalized communities.

Inputs to High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation 

The issue of misinformation is evolving and there hasn’t been a lot of multi stakeholder engagement on the same. As a result, the discussion on the panel was not yet nuanced enough to have developed values and principles. However, a suggestion that was repeatedly put forth by panelists and participants was was that despite that there was general understanding among all of us that misinformation had devastating implications, we did not have a concrete solution to counter it. Therefore, there should be a way to ensure that misinformation is discussed on a single battle by different stakeholders. This will enable us to come up with concrete solutions to counter misinformation.


Digital Cooperation should play a role in facilitating these multistakeholder consultations on these critical issues emerging in digital cyber space. At the moment, IGF is the only forum where different stakeholders come and interact. However, for countries like Pakistan, where neither national IGF has happened nor there is significant participation at the international IGF, there are practically no notable forums that could facilitate the multi-stakeholder consultation like this. Also some critical issues like misinformation are time bound and cannot wait for a year to be discussed at IGF. Therefore, digital cooperation's good offices can be fruitful in initiating timely conversation on misinformation among different stakeholders.


However, to be able to deconstruct the issue in a way that is conducive to responsive policy making, we still need engagement from the IGF Secretariat, ideally in the shape of a best practice forum exploring the nuances of the issue.