UNESCO Partners Global Media Regulators to Create Network to Tackle Digital Platform Challenges

Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has partnered with media regulators from around the world to form a global network of regulators that aims to coordinate international response to the challenges posed by digital platforms.

The establishment of this network follows the release of UNESCO’s Guidelines for the Governance of Digital Platforms in November 2023. These guidelines serve as a comprehensive roadmap for governments, regulatory bodies, digital companies, and citizens, aiming to implement balanced and effective measures for digital governance.

Ms Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General said: “Faced with global platforms, we need global responses. Thanks to the creation of this global network of regulators, hosted by UNESCO and already supported by participants from 124 countries, we will meet the major challenges posed by digital technology at the scale needed. This joint action will be based on one guiding principle: to protect freedom of expression and human rights.”

The three-day forum, held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, organized by UNESCO and the Croatian Agency for Electronic Media, brought together representatives from 124 countries, including 87 national and regional regulatory networks, digital platforms, governments, think tanks, self-regulators, electoral bodies, and civil society. They committed to co-funding a Global Forum of Regulators, hosted by UNESCO, to meet regularly and coordinate efforts for better governance of digital platforms.

Key discussions at the forum focused on countering disinformation and hate speech, protecting human rights, enhancing media literacy, and addressing the technical challenges of regulation. This inaugural meeting provided an opportunity for regulators to share experiences and plan the implementation of UNESCO’s guidelines in their respective regions.

Despite the advantages of social media, UNESCO studies have highlighted the significant risks posed by the spread of online disinformation and hate speech, including harassment, violence, and a decline in mental health among youth.

A UNESCO-commissioned IPSOS survey of 8,000 people across 16 countries, all of which have upcoming elections, revealed that 87% of respondents were concerned about the impact of disinformation on elections, while 67% had encountered hate speech on social media. Furthermore, 89% agreed that governments and regulators should ensure social media platforms implement trust and safety measures during election campaigns.

The UNESCO Guidelines for the Governance of Digital Platforms are designed to mitigate these risks. Developed through an extensive worldwide consultation process with over 10,000 stakeholder comments, these guidelines aim to ensure the integrity of information on digital platforms.