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IEC moves to flush out false social media influence on elections outcome

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) CEO Sy Mamabolo.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) CEO Sy Mamabolo.
Image: Tyrone Arthur

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has teamed up with Media Monitoring Africa to launch an online platform to guard against misleading information on social media that could influence the outcome of elections.

The platform will be hosted on a website called The Real 411, www.real411.org, and will be accessed from the IEC's website.

“Complaints will be considered by a panel of relevant experts including those with expertise in media law , social and digital media. They will make recommendations for possible further action for the consideration of the commission,” said IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo.

After the IEC has received the recommendations of the panel, it will then make a decision on the matter, including:

- referring the matter for criminal or civil legal action;

- requesting social media platforms to remove the offensive material; and

- issuing media statements to alert the public of the disinformation.

Disinformation is false, inaccurate or misleading information designed to cause intentional harm. The site will contain a database of complaints and the progress made in each to enable the public to observe the progress.

Handling of the reporting of digital misinformation will form part of the work of the directorate of electoral offences established in the lead-up to the 2016 municipal elections.

IEC vice-chairperson Janet Love said digital media had the potential to be an asset for the promotion of democracy.

“But it also comes with significant risks and we have seen disinformation posing a very real threat to free and fair elections elsewhere in the world. This platform is South Africa’s innovative step to help channel any complaints to people with the relevant capabilities so that the electoral commission can take the necessary action quickly,” said Love.

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