The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a zero draft of its international pandemic treaty which will give the unelected global health agency new powers to “tackle” anything that it deems to be “false, misleading, misinformation or disinformation” if passed.
The WHO has been pushing the treaty since December 2021 and those drafting the treaty intend to present a final report to the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s decision-making body, in May 2024.
If adopted, the treaty will be legally binding under international law and the WHO’s 194 member states (which represent 98% of all the countries in the world) would be required to comply with the treaty’s demands to target misinformation.
The zero draft is similar to previous versions of the treaty and the provisions related to misinformation are described in Article 17 (“Strengthening pandemic and public health literacy”).
This section of the treaty calls for member states to “tackle false, misleading, misinformation or disinformation, including through promotion of international cooperation.”
It also urges member states to manage “infodemics” — a term coined by the WHO that refers to “too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.” Specifically, member states are told to manage these so-called infodemics “through effective channels, including social media.”
The scope of this treaty also extends beyond the WHO’s member base. Article 16 (“Whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches at the national level”) urges member states to collaborate with non-state actors and the private sector as part of a “whole-of-society response in decision making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, as well as effective feedback mechanisms.”
We obtained a copy of the zero draft of the WHO’s pandemic treaty for you here.