Together we have researched the relationship between communication technologies and social well-being for more than 25 years. We know very well that truth is often the first victim in international conflicts.
The world needs an Intergovernmental Panel for the Information Environment (IPIE), and we need it now.
The IPCC was established under similar circumstances — to determine the state of knowledge on climate change and provide regular scientific assessments on its implications and risks. With 195 member countries, the IPCC is legitimized by government support but is composed of scientists and climate experts who review existing scientific literature and data to establish an international consensus on climate change.
With government backing, an IPIE would likewise convene leading thinkers and scholars in the field: data scientists, misinformation experts, tech leaders, anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, neuroscientists, journalists and humanitarian activists. Together they would examine the full range of the misinformation crisis and its effects on individuals and societies.
As with the IPCC, these experts could review data and scientific literature to build an international consensus on the scope and impacts of misinformation and begin analyzing potential solutions. Over time, the IPIE could help establish the standards needed for a healthy information environment, just as the IPCC did for carbon emissions and temperature rises.
Civic education and new technology initiatives may make a difference on single issues and in particular countries. But overall, misinformation is the global problem that prevents other global problems from being solved. It is an existential threat to our societies, causing immeasurable deaths and suffering, and addressing it requires a solution that acknowledges the sheer scope and interconnectedness of the fight.
We have considered the full range of solutions to this crisis that have been proposed, from antitrust action against the social media companies to redesigning the architecture of the internet itself — and dozens of other ideas. But none of the solutions currently under discussion are as comprehensive as the proven model of the IPCC is — a model that an IPIE can follow.
Like climate change, misinformation is a global problem that disregards borders, so it demands a response that is global in reach and collaboration. The IPIE would use the best evidence possible, establish the standards needed for a healthy information environment, champion practical means of implementing these standards over time, and create the multilateral framework needed for a problem that has so far only been treated on a national basis.
Misinformation is cutting a wide and long swath of destruction and disruption around the world, and no country is immune to it. We must take the vital step of protecting our information environment, in a coordinated way, from the deadly and debilitating impact of misinformation.