Online disinformation and conspiracy theories have had a devastating impact on Syrian human rights defenders, victims of war crimes, journalists, and humanitarians on the frontline – and social media companies have done next to nothing to address those dangerous lies festering on their platforms.
We've launched a new report, Deadly Disinformation: how online conspiracies about Syria cause real-world harm, which reveals year-by-year Twitter data on the systematic and hateful online lies and harassment that Syrians have been subjected to, and the many ways online disinformation has directly led to offline harm.
Those harms include endangering the lives of courageous humanitarian and White Helmets teams, stalling political action by the international community when it was sorely needed, erasing history and denying war crimes, legitimizing anti-refugee policies, and making a mockery of the very institutions and international laws that are meant to keep our world safe.
Without preserving the truth and memory of war crimes, a shared future for the Syrian people will remain out of reach. Sign the petition to tell social media companies to address deadly disinformation.
Although there is a trove of evidence of torture, chemical weapons use, and the bombing of civilians by the Syrian regime and Russia, a relatively small number of conspiracy theorists – sometimes aided by a Russian-backed disinformation campaign, other times inspired by Russia’s disinformation talking points – have managed to distort the facts, sow confusion among the general public, and cast long shadows of doubt over policy debates on Syria.
Social media companies have stepped up their efforts to tackle harmful disinformation in other contexts, employing additional resources to address public health disinformation, election interference, and disinformation around Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Given the gravity of the real-world harms outlined in our report, platforms such as Facebook, Google, Telegram, TikTok, and Twitter must urgently apply equitable resources across languages to protect humanitarian workers and human rights defenders in the Syrian context.
For all the real-world harm and hurt disinformation and war crimes denial have caused, all of the Syrian witnesses, humanitarians, and human rights defenders we’ve spoken to are more determined than ever to save lives, expose war crimes, and tell the truth. We must stand with them.
Read the full report here.