UN Special Rapporteur Calls for Input to Report on Freedom of Expression and the Gender Dimensions of Disinformation

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Ms Irene Khan
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion, Ms Irene Khan, has called for input from UN Member States, international organizations, digital and telecommunications companies, civil society organizations, researchers and other stakeholders into her new report on freedom of expression and the gender dimensions of disinformation to inform the thematic report that she will present to the UN General Assembly at its 78th session.

In 2021, she had presented a report to the UN General Assembly on the issue of gender justice and freedom of opinion and expression (A/76/258) which states that despite the impressive and inspirational gains made by women, gender equality in freedom of expression remains a distant goal. The report noted that: “When women raise their voices, too often they are suppressed. In the digital age, the Internet has become the new battleground in the struggle for women’s rights, amplifying opportunities for women to express themselves, but also multiplying possibilities for repression.”

In the report, Ms Khan considers online sexual and gender-based violence, hate speech and disinformation to be the “most pervasive and pernicious form of gendered censorship.” She raised specific concerns in relation to what she terms ‘gendered disinformation’, noting that “[d]isinformation is a complex phenomenon, even more so when it is gendered, and would benefit from more research and analysis.”

The Special Rapporteur has participated in a series of regional consultations with civil society to better understand the nature and impact of gendered disinformation so that more effective responses can be developed to address the phenomenon while upholding freedom of expression.

She has now proposed to present a report on the gender dimensions of disinformation to the UNGA at its 78th session and is calling for submissions on the following issues:

A.   Conceptual issues

  • What do you consider to be ‘gendered disinformation’?
  • How is ‘gendered disinformation’ similar to or different from online gender-based violence?

B.    Responses of States, companies and organizations

  • What measures have States, digital companies or international organizations taken to combat ‘gendered disinformation’?
  • To what extent do these responses comply with international human rights law standards, in particular freedom of expression?
  • How effective have these measures been in addressing ‘gendered disinformation’?
  • Please provide references / links to legal or policy frameworks developed to address the gender dimensions of disinformation.
  • Please provide references / links to relevant case law concerning this topic.

C.    Finding solutions

  • What recommendations do you think the Special Rapporteur should make and to whom on combating gendered disinformation?
  • What issues or areas of gendered disinformation require further research in your opinion?
  • Please provide references or links to relevant research or reports.

Submissions, not be more than 2,000 words, should be sent on MS Word or PDF format by email to hrc-sr-freedex@un.org with the subject line: “Input for the report on gendered disinformation”.

Deadline for submission of input is July 7, 2023.

Inputs will be accepted in English, French, and Spanish. Additional supporting materials, such as reports, academic studies, and other types of background materials are welcome and may be annexed to the submission. All submissions will be published on the OHCHR website, unless there is a request to keep them confidential.