Oslo Governance Centre
When our collective development efforts are being undermined by the spread of false, misleading, manipulated and otherwise harmful information, we are obliged to respond.
Access to reliable information is a necessary condition for well-governed and peaceful societies. We now live in a world where huge volumes of information spread quickly, without checks or controls and where information is ranked based on its ability to grab attention, rather than its truth or accuracy. It is easy to deceive and hard to know what information to trust. Information pollution has emerged as a deeply worrisome and hard-to-fix consequence of this new reality.
This is a global problem, and in the words of the UN Secretary General an “existential risk to humanity”. It impedes our ability to address the immense global challenges now facing us: violent conflict, democratic backsliding, the climate emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic, to name a few.
Information pollution undermines the social contract and erodes trust in democratic processes and institutions. It is a potent catalyst of conflict and division, sometimes to explosive effect. It prevents informed decision-making and collective agreement on truth and fact. This is true even in advanced digital societies with robust democratic institutions. The impact of information pollution on less resilient countries is under researched, yet potentially more alarming.
Under the 2022-25 Strategic Plan, UNDP is redoubling efforts to protect and promote access to reliable information on issues of public concern. This includes countering information pollution in all its forms.
Since 2020, the Oslo Governance Centre has focused its attention on combating information pollution. The recent Covid-19 pandemic saw a surge in information pollution relating to Covid-19, endangering people’s health and undermining governments and health systems’ capacities. To offer immediate support to UNDP country offices globally, OGC created a Guidance Note on information pollution outlining rapid responses and long-term strategies.
In 2022 OGC has developed strategic guidance to provide coherence both strategically and programmatically to UNDP’s work in this field. The guidance note explores information integrity as it relates to UNDP’s mandate and thematic areas of interest and provides a conceptual framework of terminology and definitions. At the programmatic level, it provides practical guidance for context analysis and programme design.
Gendered disinformation in Crisis – case studies on Ukraine and Moldova
Given the threat that gendered misinformation poses to democratic values, the fundamental importance of the strengthening of democratic governance to the UNDP mandate and in line with momentum that gendered disinformation is gathering within the UN, OGC have started an exploratory assessment of how women are targeted through disinformation in crisis settings. The research will identify and analyse the narratives that are produced and subsequently the potential impact these have on the crisis and on women’s safety, wellbeing, and engagement.
The research will be both qualitative and quantitative and focus on:
a. Trends and patterns of gendered disinformation in the crisis context
b. Disinformation targeting Ukrainian women in the ongoing war and refugee crisis
Expected publication: September 2022
Mapping of disinformation in the European Countries and Independent States region
Counter-disinformation initiatives in the ECIS region are numerous and diverse. Through desk research and analysis of policies, legal documents, and interviews with local actors, UNDP’s Istanbul Regional Hub and OGC are creating a report. The report will highlight several observations about the existing responses to information pollution, gaps, and areas of engagement for relevant stakeholders. The report will also suggest areas of strategic action and engagement by the UNDP and other stakeholders.
Expected publication: August 2022
Information Pollution in the context of Ukraine conflict
In March 2022, OGC conducted a desk review of online information pollution about the war in Ukraine. The study focused on understanding the disinformation tactics used to advance the agendas on both sides of the conflict, the main narratives emerging, and how these narratives reach their audience. In addition, the report analysed key social media responses. The main trends identified were: (i) justifying the war; (ii) diminishing the war; (iii) fear and confusion mongering; (iv) glorifying own camp/demonizing the enemy. The main patterns observed during the analysis align with previous findings on information warfare techniques in Central and Eastern Europe which combine the use of disinformation, cyber warfare, AI-generated content and the active role of state-owned media and official social media accounts.
Information Pollution Mapping Programme