Mapping and Strengthening Civil Society Response to Disinformation

  • Governments in autocratic and autocratizing contexts may use anti-fake news laws to discredit critical civil society actors as agents of “disinformation” and punish them. Through comparative and cross-learning insights derived from field studies, we seek to map civil society responses against the autocratic use of disinformation laws and strengthen policies for right to information and freedom of speech and expression.
    NED, 2023-2025


    Research Questions

    1. What are the regional patterns and trends of the misuse of anti-fake news laws in South and Southeast Asia?
    2. How are civic actors, specifically journalists and activists, responding to these laws?
    3. What could be the good practices of disinformation regulation in terms of platform governance, which prevents their misuse by governments?
    4. What could be the countermeasures by civic actors for preventing autocratic use of anti-fake news laws by governments?

    Contribution to International Research

    Our contributions are:
    Our major outcome is a virtual knowledge platform for awareness-building and cross-learning activities between stakeholders (academics, journalists, activists, and policy-makers) against the autocratic use of anti-fake news laws by governments. Our academic outcomes include providing a dataset on how governments define "disinformation" across South and Southeast Asia; what are the mechanisms through which "disinformation laws" become a form of digital repression by governments; and chart civil society countermeasures against this for the protection and promotion of democratic and digital rights. Further, our policy papers focus on improving disinformation regulation in the region and strengthening civil society countermeasures against the abuse of anti-fake news laws by governments.

    Research Design and Methods

    We will be conducting a comparative study of countries in South and Southeast Asia that have passed anti-fake news laws, rules, and regulations; collecting and analysing data based on archival and computational research, field study, and insights derived from interviews and workshops with stakeholders.

    GIGA Focus Global | 1/2024

    Repression by Legal Means: Governments’ Anti-Fake News Lawfare

    Anti-fake news lawfare is deepening government control over civil society, undermining information integrity and civil society’s democratic rights. Patterns to this legal repression and related pushback strategies in South and Southeast Asia are examined, as the forerunners of global developments.


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