UN Secretary-General António Guterres, a socialist who formerly served as Portugal’s prime minister, delivered an address at the UN’s General Assembly on Monday, February 6th, where he called on people and institutions across the world who influence the flow of information to take action to stop the spread of what he called “misinformation and disinformation.”
“We will call for action from everyone with an influence on the spread of misinformation on the internet—governments, regulators, policymakers, technology companies, the media, and civil society,” Guterres said during an approximately thirty-minute briefing to the General Assembly on Priorities for 2023.
“Stop the hate. Set up strong guardrails. Be accountable for language that causes harm,” the UN chief continued, adding: “And as part of my report on ‘Our Common Agenda,’ we are convening all stakeholders around a Code of Conduct for information integrity on digital platforms.”
Continuing, Guterres declared that international bodies “will also strengthen [their] focus on how mis- and disinformation is impacting progress on global issues—including the climate crisis.”
From the podium, Guterres underscored what he referred to as the UN’s commitment to protecting cultural rights and diversity around the world.
The secretary-general also claimed, without citing evidence, that “many in positions of power profit from caricaturing diversity as a threat,” adding that the same people, whom he did not name, “sow division and hatred” and “weaponize cultural differences.” He accused social media platforms of using “algorithms that amplify toxic ideas and funnel extremist views into the mainstream,” and sharply criticized advertisers, whom he claims “finance this business model.”
Guterres leveled accusations against some social media platforms—which he also refrained from naming—of tolerating ‘hate speech’—something which he claimed is the “first step toward hate crimes.”
U.S. business magnate Elon Musk was among those who reacted to the UN chief’s address, posting on his newly acquired social media platform Twitter that the “UN is more likely to cause, rather than prevent disinformation”
Guterres’s full speech can be watched here.