While disinformation can pose threats to individuals’ rights to health, life, and to participate in a free and fair democracy, poorly designed legislative or policy responses to disinformation can, themselves, pose serious risks to human rights – particularly the right to freedom of expression – by restricting a broad range of speech and forcing self-censorship, preventing individuals from accessing and sharing information online, and carrying disproportionate penalties.

LEXOTA provides detailed analysis on laws and government actions on disinformation across Sub-Saharan Africa, to inform and strengthen the work of human rights defenders, researchers and policymakers.It was first developed in 2018 by a consortium of civil society organisations, and is powered by data and insight from local experts with legal analysis by the Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria and Global Partners Digital.

The methodology for assessing each law or action is based on the three-part test for permissible restrictions to freedom of expression outlined in the ICCPR Article 19(3) and other sources of interpretive guidance. Restrictions must be:

  1. provided by law;
  2. in pursuit of one of the following purposes:
    • protecting the rights or reputations of others
    • protecting national security or public order
    • protecting public health or morals
  3. necessary and proportionate (meaning they are the least restrictive means required to achieve the purported aim).

This three-part test, as well as other sources of interpretive guidance, inform the six question framework for analysing legislation, and the three question framework for analysing government action.

1 The methodology also draws upon General Comment No. 34 of the UN Human Rights Committee and the 2017 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and “Fake News”, Disinformation and Propaganda.

Last updated: December 2023
Suggested Citation: LEXOTA (Interactive Tool), available at www.lexota.org (accessed <date>).

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