Disinformation by political parties in order to endear themselves to voters is now being monitored by the 2021 Local Government Anti-Disinformation Project, which warns that offenders face heavy penalties.
The 2021 Local Government Anti-Disinformation Project is a first-of-its-kind common-purpose “country duty” collaborative project against disinformation and misinformation.
Project partners include Phumzile van Damme, Right2Know, Code For Africa, Superlinear, Dr. David Rosenstein and WITNESS.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) code of conduct prohibits political parties from “publishing false information about other parties” and “generally abusing a position of power, privilege or influence to influence the outcome of an election”.
With the election date officially proclaimed last week, political parties, candidates and their agents will now face heavy penalties for spreading disinformation in order to mislead voters, warns the Local Government Anti-Disinformation Project.
Parties that violate the IEC code of conduct can be fined, or stopped from working in an area. They can also have their votes in an area cancelled, have their party registration cancelled, and they can forfeit their election deposit.
“We hope that political parties will see our initiative as an opportunity to reflect on how they communicate with voters,” says Van Damme, one of the Disinformation Project’s coordinators.
“We hope they remember how disinformation led to the loss of over 300 lives in July 2021 and will not engage in the same in the quest for power.”
When the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma proclaimed 1 November 2021 as the new date for the local government elections, the IEC code of conduct came into immediate effect.
The Local Government Election 2021 Disinformation Project said it will be monitoring communications from political parties using technology and data science tools for any violations of the IEC code of code.
Offenders will be reported to the Electoral Court.