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Strengthening information integrity in humanitarian settings

Illustration of young woman with a smartphone, including the text "You have the right to be protected and safe online".© UNHCR
The project will develop proactive strategies to combat misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech targeting or affecting forcibly displaced and stateless people, which is widely circulated and amplified on social media and digital platforms. The project seeks to design a toolkit to successfully "pre-bunk" harmful narratives before they impact or threaten displaced people.

What is the challenge?

The growth of social media and digital channels, generally having a hugely positive impact on people in humanitarian settings, has led to a rise in misinformation, disinformation and hate speech. Such narratives have become more commonplace and accepted, impacting the information environment and polluting social media feeds and degrading general information integrity. This is having a detrimental impact on refugees and other forcibly displaced people, who often are the target of these narratives. Whether it is vicious online attacks on them as individuals or communities, being provided with false information to cause harm, or being caught in an information ecosystem where facts and creditable testimonies are manipulated by incorrect information, the lack of information integrity directly reduces the ability of forcibly displaced people to access the support they need.

What is innovative about the project?

Most strategies to counter mis- and disinformation and hate speech are reactive and rely on information and systems that are not adapted to humanitarian contexts. There is an over-reliance on digital content moderation systems, which are designed for corporate marketing usage, are under resourced and often insufficient in their ability to detect hate speech in minority and less common languages. A humanitarian-specific lens to address this complex phenomena, and design adequate responses for humanitarian organisations, is needed. UNHCR therefore seeks to test the use of “pre-bunking” strategies that proactively counter false and potentially harmful narratives before they take hold. The organisation will look to establish new partnerships, particularly with tech companies and digital platforms, to co-design these pre-bunking tools.

What are the expected outcomes?

UNHCR expects to develop a systematic ‘pre-bunking’ approach and toolkit that can be used by humanitarian organisations and experts in the information integrity space. The toolkit will be available to actors in the humanitarian sector to help mitigate and prevent the escalation and harmful impact of misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech on people forced to flee.

Who are the project partners?

UNHCR will partner with social research companies as well as tech, social media companies and other digital platforms, to inform and collaboratively develop the approach and toolkit. This will be tested and refined in collaboration with displaced people who have been affected by misinformation, disinformation and hate speech.

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