Last month the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) launched an online platform to combat disinformation for the upcoming 2019 national elections (8th May) and has seen over 70 complaints thus far.
According to SA News, the IEC says complaints may not be about disinformation, but they related to the tone and content of messages from political parties and contestants, and may have the ability to cause offence or undue political tension and rivalry.
“It is important to note that journalist reporting on what politicians say is not disinformation. A free press is critical for free and fair elections, and encourages accountability and keeps the electorate informed,” added the IEC.
Furthermore they note that among the 70 complaints received, 34 have been finalised and the remainder will be processed as they are received. In those cases reported, several have referred to news articles or opinion pieces on websites, which have then been referred to the Press Council.
“Another area of potential confusion relates to the nuances of satire. Satire has an important role to play in political commentary and the IEC is committed to ensuring that free speech is not undermined in this disinformation initiative,” added the IEC.
“At the time, the number of complaints and interactions demonstrates that South Africans are taking the time to engage with political messages and reporting in digital media,” said the vice chairperson of the IEC, Janet Love.
The IEC and Media Monitoring Africa have advised all South Africans to cast a critical eye on what they read and share online, and to continue to report possible disinformation on their online platform.