Confronting disinformation in electoral process: A call for coordinated action

The session brought together a panel of experts from various profiles and regions including Laura Zommer, Executive and Editor-in-Chief at Chequeado, a fact-checking network in Latin America, Mathilde Vougny, Programme analyst for the European Commission-UNDP Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance, Souhaib Khayati, Director of the North African Bureau of Reporters without Borders based in Tunisia, and finally, William Bird, Director of Media Monitoring Africa in South Africa.

We cannot have genuine elections without having a free flow of information. It is an international human right to vote and to guarantee the free expression of the electorate. The problem with disinformation, however, is that these expressions can also undermine the right to vote. This raises the question of what would be legitimate in terms of imparting and receiving such content, in order to protect the right to vote as well as the core of freedom of expression.

Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director for Strategy and Policy

In today’s digitalized world, opportunities to seek, receive and impart information and ideas between citizens, politicians and political parties are unprecedented, with information related to elections flowing faster and easier than ever. Precisely because of this ease of access, and because elections constitute a cornerstone of inclusive governance, electoral processes are particularly vulnerable

Sara Lister, Head of Governance at UNDP

Drawing a contrast with traditional media, the panelists identified three key aspects that pose new challenges to democracies: the expanding volume of information being produced, its geographical scope and reach, and the rapidly changing information landscape. According to Mathilde Vougny, political parties and electoral candidates have adopted new strategies of information dissemination, using novel platforms (like social media and local networks) to amass thousands of followers. Information thus moves from local to national and international news much more rapidly than ever before. William Bird, from Media Monitoring Africa, further highlighted that disinformation today benefits from the widespread use of mobile devices, where micro-targeted political messages have invaded our personal spaces and often undermine trust in the media- thereby creating a conducive environment for disinformation.

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