UNDP tool to fight misinformation scales globally as digital public good

NEW YORK – Understanding online information pollution is an urgent global challenge that disproportionately harms those who are already vulnerable. UNDP’s iVerify tool was recently added to the DPG Registry of the Digital Public Goods Alliance as its first digital public good (DPG) on fighting misinformation. iVerify is an automated fact-checking tool which helps to combat the spread of false narratives during elections. It is part of a broader approach involving people and technology that UNDP is working on. The tool was implemented through the EU/UNDP electoral assistance projects under the lead of government and civil society partners in Zambia and Honduras to help facilitate peaceful and fair elections, and is now under implementation in Kenya and Liberia.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the crises across the world, mis- and disinformation and hate speech have become powerful weapons. False information can have a devastating effect on public health, minority communities, and people’s trust in democratic institutions, and can also foment conflict.

iVerify was developed by UNDP in response to requests from countries on how to deal with misinformation and hate speech in elections. “This global problem has exposed the need for approaches and solutions that are designed for scale. By their very nature, digital public goods are open-source software, open data, open AI, open tools, that are scalable and adhere to privacy regulations. When used as part of larger efforts to ensure the fairness of electoral processes, iVerify can help flag and bring attention to false information,” said Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

The tool combines AI technology with human fact checking to determine whether accounts and narratives related to elections are true or false. Once the veracity is checked, the platform that was built around iVerify alerts the public and institutions to cases of false narratives. By becoming a digital public good, iVerify will be available to a broader community of practitioners – developers, journalists, fact-checkers, academia, and others – to help counter mis- and disinformation and hate speech globally.

Given that DPGs are open source, they can be implemented relatively quickly and localized to contextual specific needs. They are also often considered more trustworthy as their codebases and documentation are transparent, and because the DPG Standard includes requirements related to protecting privacy and doing no harm.

“In 2021, we joined the DPGA as a co-host and governing board member to provide stewardship to reimagine a technology landscape that operates with the public interest at its core, – working across regions. We are therefore thrilled to lead the way as the first digital public good to combat this complex challenge of information pollution,” said Robert Opp, UNDP’s Chief Digital Officer.

As mis- and disinformation threaten to exacerbate societal tensions and potentially undermine democratic processes, there is an urgent need for action. UNDP plans to expand the tool’s application to further address narratives that can cause societal divides and pose risks to democratic institutions. Learn more about the threats and opportunities to fight false narratives from this discussion with global experts hosted by DPGA, Omidyar Network, and UNDP.

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