Increase in disinformation leading up to elections not enough to destabilise it - MMA

accreditation

The challenge to combat and debunk disinformation and misinformation online continues to be a challenge and came into sharper focus during South Africa's general elections.

Reports of Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) officials not allowing women wearing nail polish to vote, voting stations being moved without warning and racism allegations levelled at the IEC caused a stir online and in some cases were later proven to be false.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) in partnership with the IEC introduced an initiative called The Real411 to help fight the disinformation war.

Search engine giant Google also entered the fray using its vast resources to train journalists on how to use its tools in order to identify and debunk misinformation and disinformation.

These initiatives proved incredibly useful to not only debunk false information but also to track the scourge of disinformation that could have threatened the integrity of South Africa's elections.

Disinformation

Nomshado Lubisi, MMA communications manager, says while there was a spread of disinformation across the internet during this period, it did not derail the process. 

"From an overview of the period, it didn’t seem to be a deliberate strategy of disinformation campaigning - although we are still busy with some research into this."

"There is definitely a threat of future disinformation campaigns in election periods. I think that we aren’t seeing a decline, rather an increase in the use of social media in election campaigning, and with that, an increase in potential disinformation online. I think we have to be proactive about the threats of disinformation, and that’s why a platform such as The Real411 is such an important initiative," Lubisi said. 

The Real411 received just over 100 complaints and counting since its launch on April 1. Many of the complaints related to social media posts on Facebook and Twitter as well as WhatsApp messages.

Mich Atagana, head of communication and public relations at Google South Africa, said the threat of disinformation is a concern but it is up to the media and citizens to take the matter into their own hands.

"We live in a world where people on the internet will say things that are not true or that are 70% true and 30% made up – that is the world we live in."

She added that this was why organisations like Africa Check are so important in South Africa because then they can educate people. They also allow people to fact-check for themselves.

"I think the real role of the press is [seeing] disinformation and actively saying: 'This is not true.' The onus is on everybody to make sure that they are debunking information, me as an individual if I see something that I know to not be true on the internet I should flag that and debunk that," said Atagana.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place.

,election 2019

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 811 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 9278 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 1089 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
18.01
-1.3%
Rand - Pound
20.11
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
17.64
-0.4%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-1.0%
Gold
1,713.07
-0.2%
Silver
20.66
+0.1%
Palladium
2,253.50
-0.2%
Platinum
925.00
+0.3%
Brent Crude
93.37
+1.7%
Top 40
59,416
+0.4%
All Share
65,833
+0.3%
Resource 10
63,279
-0.6%
Industrial 25
80,027
+1.0%
Financial 15
13,997
+0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE