Electoral commission launches reporting platform for digital disinformation

Following a global rise in disinformation, especially via digital platforms and its potential impact on elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has launched an online reporting platform for citizens to report instances of alleged digital disinformation.

The digital platform is intended for complaints related only to social media and is not intended to replace existing channels and processes for investigating alleged breaches of the code of conduct.

Developed in conjunction with Media Monitoring South Africa, a non-governmental organisation focused on promoting independent, accurate and impartial reporting on
elections, the platform will provide for the online submission and tracking of complaints relating to disinformation encountered on social media platforms.

The platform is hosted on a website called “The Real 411” (www.real411.org).“411”is internet slang for information.

Disinformation is defined as false, inaccurate or misleading information designed to intentionally cause harm.

Within an election context this includes false information intended to unduly affect participation in and the outcome of elections.

The digital disinformation reporting platform forms part of the work of the Directorate of Electoral Offences which was first established ahead of the 2016 Municipal Elections to investigate alleged breaches of the code of conduct and prohibited conduct.

Complaints will be considered by a panel of experts, including those with expertise in media law and social and digital media.

They will make recommendations for possible further action for the consideration of the commission.

Such action could include referring the matter for criminal or civil legal action; requesting social media platforms to remove the offensive material; and/ or issuing media
statements to alert the public and correct the disinformation.

The Real 411 site will contain a database of all complaints received and their progress.

To help distinguish between official and fake adverts,
political parties contesting the May 8 national and provincial elections have been asked to upload all official advertising material used by the
party to an online political advert repository at www.padre.org.za.

Complaints relating to alleged breaches of the code of conduct must be submitted to the Electoral Court or the Directorate for Electoral Offences.

The court can be contacted on 051 412 7400/ 7494 or email the secretary of the court, Samkelo Mgxekwa, at SMgxekwa@sca.judiciary.org.za

The Directorate for Electoral Offences can be reached via email at legalservices@elections.org.za