By Staff Writer
With the November 2021 South African local government election predicted to be the most competitive yet, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has implemented a strict code of conduct and ramped up its focus on disinformation.
Political parties can be heavily fined and even have their inclusion in the process revoked if the code is breached. Breaches include prohibitions on intimidation, the spreading of false information and plagiarism.
The IEC and Media Monitoring South Africa have also set up an online digital reporting platform to report disinformation. Further, local institutions, including the Disinformation Project – a coalition of individuals including former member of Parliament Pumzile Van Dam, Right2Know, Superlinear and Dr David Rosenstein, have been formed to monitor disinformation, understanding the reasons behind its pervasiveness and acceptance.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Lazola Kati from Right2Know, a Disinformation Project coalition partner, explained that the coalition’s work would inform, educate, monitor, report, and assess and understand.
She also pointed out the pervasiveness of disinformation in the country, especially regarding the vaccine and July’s looting spree, were heavily influenced by false information.
She further advised South Africans to continuously fact-check and obtain their information from official sources. “We are going to release tools and education on how people can fact-check, because that’s the most important thing. My advice would be fact check, whatever link you get… story you receive, whatever conversation you have, fact check, and go onto official sites. If it’s a story from journalists, if it’s an ENCA story, and it’s A BBC story, any type of media house story, fact check it’s important.”
The IEC defines disinformation as “false, inaccurate or misleading information designed to cause harm intentionally” and has set up a platform at www.real411.org to report instances. It is noteworthy that not all disinformation is seen as a breach of the code, with the IEC not mentioning exclusion and banning as a possible remedy in this instance.
South African local government elections are scheduled to be held on 01 November 2021.
The Disinformation Project will, in the coming days, release more tools for citizen monitoring and reporting.
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