FOC Calls on States to Support Journalists, Media Workers to Ensure Election Transparency and Accountability

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The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a group of 39 countries with a mandate to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms online, has called on all States around the world to support journalists and media workers in their role of ensuring election transparency and accountability.

The FOC affirmed this in a call made through a joint statement that the rights individuals enjoy offline must be safeguarded in the digital realm, including the freedom of expression, encompassing the liberty to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas.

The Coalition emphasized that democracies thrive on open, inclusive public discourse and transparent, fair elections, vital for holding governments accountable and responsive to their populace.

Acknowledging the criticality of maintaining information integrity online, especially during elections, the FOC defined “information integrity” as an accessible, reliable information ecosystem fostering trust and accuracy while accommodating diverse viewpoints.

The FOC underscored that democracies depend on open, free, and inclusive public debate, and free and fair elections that help hold governments accountable and responsive to their citizens.

The Coalition noted that the year 2024 is a historical year for elections, where billions of people will exercise their voting rights, and digital technologies will offer unprecedented opportunities for democratic engagement, facilitating rapid information dissemination and supporting human rights enjoyment.

However, the FOC expressed concerns about the proliferation of election-related misinformation and disinformation, supported by digital platforms. This includes the dissemination of hate speech and misleading content by both state and non-state actors.

They added that the advent of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) further worsens concerns, enabling the creation and dissemination of deceptive content, including deepfakes, at minimal cost and effort.

Another concern the Coalition raised is the malevolent use of AI tools to foster distrust, polarize societies, and undermine democratic institutions, affecting marginalized groups disproportionately.

The FOC stated that efforts to tackle these challenges must uphold democratic principles, including pluralism, inclusivity, and the reliability of information, while safeguarding users’ access and agency.

It noted that to ensure robust political participation during electoral periods, access to diverse, accurate, and reliable information is imperative, forming the bedrock of informed voting and democratic governance.

FOC therefore urged States to:
• Safeguard information integrity online while upholding freedom of expression in line with international human rights obligations.
• Support journalists and media workers in their role of ensuring election transparency and accountability.
• Refrain from internet and digital platform restrictions throughout the electoral cycle.
• Abstain from sponsoring disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining democratic processes.
• Ensure any measures against disinformation adhere to international law and human rights standards.

The Coalition also called on online platforms and the tech industry to:
• Uphold democracy, human rights, and the rule of law while combating efforts to subvert democratic systems.
• Assess the human rights impacts of their products and services in collaboration with stakeholders.
• Take appropriate measures to ensure the trustworthiness of their services and products, including AI-powered tools.
• Prioritize accuracy, reliability, and plurality of information on their platforms.
• Enhance transparency and data access to combat misinformation and disinformation effectively.