Launch of a tracker on disinformation in Africa

Today, Global Partners Digital (GPD), ARTICLE 19, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), PROTEGE QV and  the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria jointly launched an interactive map to track and analyse disinformation laws, policies and patterns of enforcement across Sub-Saharan Africa.

 The map offers a birds-eye view of trends in state responses to disinformation across the region, as well as in-depth analysis of the state of play in individual countries, using a bespoke framework to assess whether laws, policies and other state responses are human rights-respecting.

 Developed against a backdrop of rapidly accelerating state action on COVID-19 related disinformation, the map is an open, iterative product. At the time of launch, it covers 31 countries (see below for the full list), with an aim to expand this in the coming months. All data, analysis and insight on the map has been generated by groups and actors based in Africa.

 List of countries currently covered by the map:

Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


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 Commenting on the launch,

ARTICLE 19, West Africa office said: “Disinformation constitutes a major threat to the freedom of expression and the right to access information and it is geared to mislead the population and influence their opinions and views. The fight against disinformation requires a multifaceted approach ranging from education, awareness raising, proactive disclosure of public interest information, fact checking; independent regulation and effective self-regulation by legacy media and social media platforms among others. With the COVID19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that collective efforts are made to curb the impact of disinformation on public health and the rights of the public to know.”

“National legislation and policies aimed at countering and responding to disinformation should always strike the right balance between the need to protect people against this practice and the respect of human rights especially freedom of expression. Such measures should not be used to interfere or block divergent opinions and dissident voices. We are pleased to have been part of this joint initiative that has enabled us to work together with sister organisations in and outside the continent to publish this disinformation tracker. This tracker is a start-up that will usher in more in-depth work analysing laws and policies around the disinformation phenomenon in the region, engaging media and civil society in analysis-based advocacy geared towards governments and intermediaries to protect human rights—particularly freedom of expression—in their disinformation response, to ensure any restriction and penalty are always justifiable, proportionate and compliant with international standards.”

The Centre for Human Rights said: “Disinformation is a global phenomenon whose effects are felt across the political, economic and social spectrum. Efforts being undertaken to counter the scourge of disinformation should respect human rights, especially freedom of expression. In addition, a sustained approach is required and should involve different stakeholders employing legal and other internationally set standards. The tracker is an attempt to showcase the nature of state regulation of disinformation in sub-Saharan Africa and provides a basis for tackling this scourge.”

CIPESA said: “Speculation, false and misleading information circulating online is a challenge, not only in Africa but across the world. Legislative means against misinformation often undermine free speech and media. The tracker is a great resource for activists, to drive evidence-based advocacy, policy engagement and litigation.”

GPD said: “Governments around the world have been grappling with how to respond to disinformation—a challenge given new urgency by the COVID-19 crisis. However, many of their responses pose real risks for freedom of expression. We hope that this tracker will support groups in the Africa region working to promote approaches to the disinformation challenge that protect fundamental human rights.”

PROTEGE QV said: “It is the responsibility of states to protect the security of their citizens, in the online space just as in the offline. Among threats to security online, disinformation has particular prominence, and can carry severe consequences. In seeking to tackle it, governments should balance the need to maintain security by promoting accurate information to citizens with the attendant risk of suppressing legitimate forms of expression. This tracker will serve as a key resource for groups working to ensure citizens have access to timely and accurate information.”

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