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Countering Disinformation: A Guidebook for Public Servants

Lola Janecky|

Disinformation is a global issue that erodes public trust in democratic institutions in Canada and elsewhere, worsening existing social divisions and impacting the ability of government to protect the public and deliver programs and services.

Internationally, the open government community can leverage the principles of transparency, civic participation, and public accountability, as well as OGP membership, to advance digital governance and empower government officials to fight disinformation. As OGP’s 2023-2028 Strategy highlights, protecting and expanding civic space online and off is essential to strengthen trust and deliver public goods and services to all.

As public servants, disinformation and the degradation of public trust have a palpable impact on our ability to effectively serve the public. While our role may not involve monitoring and countering disinformation directly, it is important to be aware of disinformation and our organizations’ responsibility in preventing and countering it. This requires an organizational approach that considers the perspectives of subject matter experts, members of the policy, program, communications, intelligence and security sectors, senior management, and those who deliver services and interact with the public, among others.

To address this, the Government of Canada developed Countering Disinformation: A Guidebook for Public Servants (the Guidebook) to provide Canadian federal public servants with an understanding of the threat disinformation presents, as well as to offer a consistent approach to navigating this growing threat.

The Guidebook draws on research commissioned by Canada’s Protecting Democracy Unit (PDU) in the Privy Council Office as well as publicly available research and best practices on countering disinformation. It builds on efforts and guidance from across the Government, including input from organizations researching and combating disinformation. The Guidebook provides the opportunity for public servants to help build resilience against disinformation and help ensure that government information is accessible, clear, concise, accurate, and up to date. It provides best practices to counter disinformation as it relates to government information, programs, policies, and services, and provides guidance on building public resilience to disinformation before it takes root.

As the Guidebook concludes, the best way to counter disinformation is to become engaged and informed, and to remain aware of the threat that disinformation poses. As public servants, it is vital that we understand the ways disinformation can affect how government policies and services are perceived and recognize our role in ensuring that Canadians have access to reliable and factual information. Countering Disinformation: A Guidebook for Public Servants is publicly available through the Government of Canada’s website.

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