Discussion
10 Oct - 4 Nov 2022

Gathering best practice

Clara Raven
Clara Raven • 4 October 2022

This consultation is now closed.
 

Read the Summary Report: Promoting Information Integrity in Elections.
 

You can now check out more on the UNDP's Oslo Governance Centre Information Integrity Portfolio here and about the Action Coalition on Information Integrity here

Thank you to all participants around the globe who shared their valuable knowledge and expertise in this SparkBlue ‘Promoting Information in Elections’ e-discussion hosted by UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and the Action Coalition on Information Integrity in Elections

We had contributions from across 25 countries, sharing learning and best practice from a range of electoral contexts. These have helped sharpen our thoughts and created “a pool of wisdom” that is now guiding the programmatic guidance paper on Information Integrity in Elections. This will be presented at multiple global forums, disseminated by the Action Coalition members and participating experts, and will be the first of its kind: A consensus-led guidance on addressing election disinformation in a technological age.

A special thank you to the fantastic discussion moderators from member organisations of the Action Coalition:  Ingrid Bicu Niamh Hanafin, Hedda Oftung, Anneliese Mcauliffe, Jiore Craig, Petra Alderman, Professor Nic Cheeseman, Vusumuzi Sifile,  Mirna Ghanem, Carolyne Wilhelm, Bianca Lapuz, Clara Raven, Gilbert Sendugwa.

Member organizations of the Action Coalition:

  • UNDP  
  • Africa Centre for Freedom of Information    
  • Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability and Representation (CEDAR), Birmingham University   
  • Institute for Strategic Dialogue    
  • International IDEA   
  • Samir Kassir Foundation   
  • Panos Institute Southern Africa    
  • Maharat Foundation  

Following the e-discussion, here are the next steps:

  • In-Depth Consultations: We continue to consult with individual UNDP teams, other UN entities, partners, donors, and thematic experts to further sharpen the guidance paper on how the Action Coalition can best respond to enhance information integrity in elections
  • Validate our findings:  We will be hosting a virtual event which will run through the findings of the guidance paper and ensure that the final paper is consensus-led guidance.
  • Programmatic Guidance Paper: By the end of 2022, we will have a final programmatic guidance paper on addressing information integrity in elections.  We hope to share this with contributors to this consultation before promoting during early 2023.
     
  • You can continue the exchange thoughts or contributions to this topic by contacting UNDP Oslo Governance Centre, Niamh Hanafin (niamh.hanafin@undp.org) or Clara Raven (clara.raven@undp.org)


 

Introduction

As we have seen increasingly in recent years, elections are being targeted by disinformation campaigns that seek to undermine the democratic process. While there is no silver bullet for addressing this problem, there are many important and innovative initiatives being tested to mitigate the impact of election-related disinformation.

In this room, we would like to hear about these initiatives and understand what impact they are hoping to achieve. This includes, but is not limited to, building public resilience, supporting quality news media, monitoring and fact-checking, codes of conduct, partnerships with social media platforms, and regulation and legislation efforts. 

 

Questions:

  1. Outline effective media, civil society, government, private sector or UN-led programmes that have successfully protected information integrity in elections.
     
  2. Were any digital technologies incorporated into this response?
     
  3. What was the intended impact?
     
  4. Were you able to measure that impact?
     
  5. What were the key lessons you learned implementing this initiative?
     
  6. What risks and challenges did you face?

 

We are committed to protect the identities of those who require it. To comment anonymously, please select "Comment anonymously" before you submit your contribution. Alternatively, send your contribution by email to niamh.hanafin@undp.org requesting that you remain anonymous.

Comments (45)

Anneliese McAuliffe
Anneliese McAuliffe Moderator

Week Two Summary

Many thanks for the contributors for week 2. 

Some interesting points were raised and I hope discussion on these pointes will continue in the following two weeks of the is consultation. 

Simon Alexis Finley raised a couple of great points. Are programmatic interventions being robustly designed? Could we do better? Simon cites "conducting a proper analysis of the challenges, political context, entry-points". Also, an ability to faithfully evaluate programme challenges and failures.

Another issue raised by Simon is technology/digital interventions. Are we relying too heavily of the prospect of technological interventions? Are we essentially trying to "solve issues of power with code", as Simon asked?

Regarding the role of the media and integrity of elections, we have two journalists raise various issues. 

Tanya Goudsouzian raised the issue of the need to cover elections through the whole election cycle. Issues regarding media funding and media sustainability often intersect with coverage needs with media organisations tending to focus on high impact news stories. 

Tamara Bralo raised important issues that are often overlooked when international organisations seek to analyse the role of media in covering elections and sustaining integrity of elections. While interventions tend to focus on the training of journalists and fact-checking, journalists are battling other forces that often seek to marginalise, punish or co-opt. Independent media is increasingly thin on the ground and is often the least resourced and most at-risk sector of the media landscape. How can these important actors be supported?

With this, I hand over to week three!

 

 

 

 

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Anneliese for moderating last week, and many thanks to all colleagues for sharing their thoughts on this important ssubject. I will be moderating week 3 and look forward to building on this momentum. 

Ingrid Bicu
Ingrid Bicu Moderator

Dear Friends,

Thank you for joining this chat room!

My name is Ingrid Bicu, I work with International IDEA on emerging challenges associated with digital technologies in elections and I will be moderating the discussions in this room until the end of the week. 

Over the course of the next four weeks, we aim to exchange tested ideas, best practices and lessons learned from the efforts to address the impact of disinformation on elections. Your interventions are highly appreciated regardless on the role(s) you play across the electoral cycle and in the information environment around elections... and it's almost impossible not to have one.

Please specify the question(s) you are answering and don't let the language be an obstacle to our communication: the platform can translate the text into over 100 languages. Use the “Select your Language” option at the top right of the platform window to translate others' comments into your preferred language, and do feel free to comment in a language that you are most comfortable with.

Let the discussions begin!

Ali Al-BAYATI
Ali Al-BAYATI

I worked with UNDP-Afghanistan from 2018-2021 with the elections project, and we supported the elections commission for the 2019 presidential elections. When they decided to introduce technology in the presidential elections against all advice, we advised taking several measures and conducting pilot testing before going ahead. So, we found ourselves in a position to ensure that the elections commission can implement technology with the least possible damage. One of the main challenges was how to protect the secrecy of the vote, as it is one of the main challenges that face the implementation of technology in elections, and a few measurements s was put in place on the software to achieve that. Those measurements and the fact that new technology was first in Afghanistan helped somehow to protect the secrecy of the votes, and we didn’t have an incident on that. 

Ali Al-BAYATI, Ph.D. 

Elections expert .

Ingrid Bicu
Ingrid Bicu Moderator

Thank you for your comment, Ali.

Would you be able to develop more on the way this was reflected in the information space around elections, online and offline?

Ali Al-BAYATI
Ali Al-BAYATI

Thanks, Ingrid; I think it was observed vividly from the international community and the local political/information space. The information that went at the early stages after UNDP highlighted the risk of disclosing the secrecy of the votes, as gradually, the candidates and voters realized that this might even threaten their lives. And the international community started to look at elections with more doubts. 

Ali 

ajay.patel
ajay.patel

Hi All,

 

UNDP has been conducting a 3 year project called SELECT (sustaining peace during elections) in partnership with the EU, one strand of which is the relationship between information integrity and election-related violence - however, we also look at broader election concerns.

 

During the ongoing SELECT process, we engaged around 200 + interlocutors who work in the field of elections, conflict prevention and/or information integrity. Further, we conducted a literature on the subject. We are in the process of pulling together the SELECT report on information integrity with programmatic recommendations, and then a range of programmatic activities which will be made publicly available.

 

Below are some cherry-picked points that cam hopefully support this discussion and spark some debate! 

 

When considering how to ‘fix’ the problem of electoral information pollution, a lot of the popular debate envisages tightly legislated information platforms to provide a safe online space, or the inherently dangerous but open status quo. However, the SELECT findings – from interlocutors and research - see this as a limiting dichotomy.

  • Similar to the recent SG report on disinformation, there is a recognition that responses which support freedom of expression and human rights are the most effective at countering information pollution.
  • There is an onus on platforms to increase their attention to the matter, deploying the range of opportunities within their scope - ie moderation, design, technical choices, monetisation decisions etc. 
  • Furthermore, in the context of elections, activities which address the predominant supply-side of election information pollution, namely politicians and parties, are vital. 
  • At the same time, protecting the information landscape is everyone responsibly - the contestants, civil society, institutions, etc, but also new actors such as platforms, influencers and digital advisory firms. The more actions can be taken in concert and actors work in partnerships, the more promising they will be. 
  • In the vein of long-standing efforts to enhance the credibility of election processes, transparency is vital towards establishing credible and peaceful elections – which is a particular responsibility of the election management body.
  • Finally, election-related violence typically stems from underlying tensions, which should be addressed in the context of the election to provide a better including through peace-messaging online and offline.

 

When we consider specific responses, fact checking is the first that comes to mind, it provides an intervention of last resort. Often the messages found have already been ‘heard’ by people, making It difficult to truly counter their influence. Nonetheless, swift debunking on newly originated narratives remains essential to any strategy.

 

Interventions that target the producers of information pollution, primarily political entities, for example codes of conduct, are theoretically effective, but will depend upon the level of compliance that can be expected.

 

Various forms of media information literacy are increasingly becoming popular as means to reduce the effectiveness of information pollution, however, some question the limits of trying to educate an entire population.

 

As far as possible, efforts should seek to expand past the internet, and onto also other forms of media/information channels. For example, 'mainstream' media may amplify disinformation by replicating narratives found on social networks.  Our discussions, and research tend to show that the exposure to disinformation on the internet can be overstated, and that other forms of communication are part of how information pollution travels.

Anneliese McAuliffe
Anneliese McAuliffe Moderator

Dear Ajay, 

Many thanks for your comprehensive breakdown of the UNDP SELECT project. I look forward to reading the upcoming report. 

Can I ask you to expand a little on your findings regarding both fact-checking and working with the media? Can you offer any further insights into whether/how fact checking is working at scale? What kind of programmatic interventions can work with media-led misinformation and disinformation? 

Anneliese

Juliana Gargiulo
Juliana Gargiulo

Greetings from the South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) team (SDGi-BPPS) in HQ!

We’d like to share 3 good practices on SSTC in support of election processes (2 of them purely from Africa, and one involving countries in Africa, Asia, and LAC). We from the SSTC team in HQ didn’t implement these projects directly, but to contribute to this important consultation, we gathered this information of SSTC good practices led or co-led by UNDP from our reporting systems. This means that we may not have all the details and for example may not be able to reply to question 2 and a few others, but hope the below is useful:

[Example 1 - ABOUT ELECTORAL TRANSPARENCY AND CREDIBILITY IN MOZAMBIQUE]: The Electoral Transparency and Credibility project is a South-South cooperation (SSC) project between Mozambique, Timor-Leste and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela since 2018, to strengthen the capacity of Mozambican electoral management bodies (EMBs) to enhance the transparency and credibility of electoral processes.

The project provides tailored technical assistance to Mozambique’s EMBs to strengthen their capacities through an electoral cycle approach, contributing to the creation and maintenance of an environment for inclusive and responsive electoral and political processes. It seeks to strengthen the capacity of a broad range of stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of and consolidation of democracy at local and national levels. 

You can find more details in response to some of your questions in the above hyperlink, or contact @Habiba Rodolfo from UNDP Mozambique.

[Example 2 – ABOUT TRANSPARENCY, INCLUSION, CAPACITY BUILDING AND PEACE MECHANISMS TO STRENGTHEN ELECTORAL PROCESSES IN UGANDA]: The project “Strengthening Electoral Processes in Uganda (SEPU)” received funding from Norway, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Netherlands, Iceland and UNDP (US$ 1,702,190). South-South cooperation exchanges between Uganda and Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Kenya, and South Africa helped to connect knowledge and good practices on electoral processes that informed preparations and conduct of the 2020, 2021 elections in Uganda. An electoral Symposium was organized to connect knowledge and good practices on electoral processes. This enabled high-level exchanges on electoral best practices in the region, enhanced capacities of the Electoral Commission, and influenced preparations and delivery on the elections. A benchmarking visit to Ghana on Civic Education, Electoral Administration, Peace Building and SDG action, organized as part of the support to the broader electoral process in Uganda informed Uganda’s strategies for a peaceful 2020, 2021 election.

The information is available in UNDP reporting systems (ROAR 2021), where you can find more details in response to some of your questions.

[EXAMPLE 3 - THE JOINT UNDP - UN DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AND PEACEBUILDING AFFAIRS (DPPA) PROGRAMME ON BUILDING NATIONAL CAPACITIES FOR CONFLICT PREVENTION]:

The Regional Programme Specialist based in Dakar facilitated the exchange of experiences on election-related issues among countries in Western and Central Africa. The specialist led the ongoing Africa Development Bank-UN Fragility and Resilience Assessment of the Mano River Union countries and contributed to the regional conflict prevention framework for West Africa in the Mali+5 project and Chad. The Regional Programme Specialist’ expanded and back-stopping support on election-related issues among countries in Senegal, Chad, and other countries in Western and Central Africa.

In 2020, the Regional Programme Specialist:

• Provided regional analysis and updates, as well as strategic advice, for UN leadership;

• Provided technical backstopping to PDAs, including on UNSDCF and CCA;

• Extended technical advisory services to UNCTs in countries without a PDA to mainstream conflict prevention; and conflict sensitivity in their work;

• Supported UNCTs in developing early warning systems, such as the Crisis Risk Dashboard;

• Provided technical support on subregional and cross-border programming; and,

• Established and facilitated opportunities for PDA peer-learning and regional collaboration.

To find more information about this joint UNDP-DPPA programme, you may wish to contact Samuel Rizk and Amita Gill  from the Crises Bureau (CB) who may have more information. 
 

Finally, big thanks to our intern in the SSTC team, Jiajun Lai , who is finishing her internship with us today, but did a great job in supporting us finding these three good practices!

Anneliese McAuliffe
Anneliese McAuliffe Moderator

Many thanks Juliana. 

Can you to elaborate a little on the Crisis Risk Dashboard you noted in Example 3? Can you offer any further thoughts and experience of using digital technologies in response to issues of information integrity and elections?

Anneliese

 

Juliana Gargiulo
Juliana Gargiulo

Anneliese McAuliffe Hi Annaliese, as I mentioned at the end of my post, to find more information about this joint UNDP-DPPA programme, you may wish to contact @Samuel Rizk and @Amita Gill  from the Crises Bureau (CB) who may have more information. You may also wish to refer to the first paragraph of my post, where I mentioned that we from the SSTC team in HQ didn’t implement these projects directly, but to contribute to this important consultation, we gathered this information of SSTC good practices led or co-led by UNDP from our reporting systems. This means that we may not have all the details and for example. I trust this helps and thanks for your attention!
 

Anneliese McAuliffe
Anneliese McAuliffe Moderator

Dear friends and colleagues,

Thank you to Ingrid Bicu for moderating our discussion in week one. My name is Anneliese McAuliffe and I’m working with the Oslo Governance Centre on programmes focussing on information integrity. I will be moderating this discussion thread for week two.

As I have a background in journalism, I am especially interested in how the media intersects with disinformation and elections. What role can the media play to uphold freedom of information while also providing both robust, independent information to the public during elections? On the other hand, what happens when media is co-opted (i.e., by political groups or business interests) and can thereby become a source of disinformation during elections? As independent media battles to find sustainable business models, how can this co-option be tackled. Finally, we have been hearing about some innovative research and solutions to counter disinformation during elections, how can the media work with CSOs and multilateral organisations to counter misinformation?

Please also continue to address the questions posted at the top of this chat (posted below for your information) 

Questions:

  1. Outline effective media, civil society, government, private sector or UN-led programmes that have successfully protected information integrity in elections.
     
  2. Were any digital technologies incorporated into this response?
     
  3. What was the intended impact?
     
  4. Were you able to measure that impact?
     
  5. What were the key lessons you learned implementing this initiative?
     
  6. What risks and challenges did you face?

Please specify the question(s) you are answering. This platform can translate the text into over 100 languages so please use the “Select your Language” option at the top right of the platform window to translate others' comments into your preferred language and do feel free to comment in a language that you are most comfortable with.

Now, let’s continue the discussion!

Anneliese

 

 

Simon Alexis Finley
Simon Alexis Finley

Thanks for the chat on this. Let me throw something in to see if we can get a bit of chat going. I've never (or rarely) seen anyone post anything they have been in charge of that they don't pass of as effective. It might be better to reframe questions with "how did you do the best you could given the circumstances?" There needs to be re-articulation of what international actors can actually achieve in environments where they have less and less influence. As a start, conducting a proper analysis of the challenges, political context, entry-points, ect and then basing a programme response on that would be a good start, but this is not often the case. I'd like to see less innovative approaches, and more problem solving where people tried to tease out the contradictions in the political economy of the countries we all work in. Ten years ago UNDP was trying to solve issues of power with apps in one particular regions. Today, too many actors are trying to solve issues of power with code. 

 

 

Anneliese McAuliffe
Anneliese McAuliffe Moderator

Thanks Simon, this is a safe space to raise challenges, bottlenecks and the need to evaluate and re-work interventions.  For those who have commented on this thread so far Juliana Gargiulo ajay.patel Ali Al-BAYATI - can you share some challenges that you faced? What kind of scoping did you undertake? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

What do we think about the issue Simon Alexis Finley posed? Are technological/digital solutions being too heavily focussed on at the expense of analysing issues of conflict, politics and political economy?

Simon Alexis Finley - Do you have an example you could share?

Tanya Goudsouzian
Tanya Goudsouzian

Anneliese,

As a journalist, my profession contributes to free and fair elections through "radical transparency". In this world of Bots, scammers and intentional attempts by outside groups to influence elections (both in a positive and negative manner), the media must continue its job of maintaining neutrality, investigating claims and calling out organizations that use misinformation and propaganda, and attempt to use influence operations such as bribery, coercion and intimidation to affect election outcomes. 

For example, in Iraq there have been 5 parliamentary elections since 2003. While government formation has always been a problem, the veracity of the elections has never been questioned. The combination of a strong mechanism put into place by the UN and significant oversight by journalists like me reporting from polling stations has, in my mind, been instrumental in ensuring credible elections. 

The  best measure of success is that an election is declared free and fair by the United Nations or other observer groups. The lesson learned is something we in journalism have known for years -- elections must be covered from nomination to selection, and the media cannot be prevented from reporting nor intimidated in the process.

Anneliese McAuliffe
Anneliese McAuliffe Moderator

Many thanks Tanya. Could I ask a follow-up question that was raised in a separate OGC discussion I was party to this week. 

How do we ensure that the entire election cycle is covered? With media organisations often focussing purely on "high impact" news that drives viewers/readers/engagement, journalists are often left to report, in a way, backwards when election fraud or violence flares. My Thoughts here are Iran 2009, Kenya 2008 0 and indeed Iraq 2021, for example. What are the options here for covering the interesting but essentially less impactful lead-up to elections when money for news coverage is so tight? Is it closer connection with local media and journalists on the ground? What are your thoughts?

Tamara Bralo
Tamara Bralo

I agree with Simon that technological solutions tend to be too heavily favored when it comes to elections and are often used as a one-solution-fits-all. In a number of countries with questionable records of transparency where I have worked in as a journalist, the governments would either block independent outlets prior to elections (i.e. Cambodia) or - simply shut down the internet (Bangladesh).Yet digitizing could be of real value leading into elections. To continue with the Bangladesh example, I was part of the media project that attempted to digitize public records in 2018, which were at that time in theory accessible, but the archives could only be accessed in person which practically guaranteed the harassment of the journalist requesting the files. Digitizing them meant that journalists faced fewer risks accessing necessary information.

Anneliese McAuliffe
Anneliese McAuliffe Moderator

Tamara, this is a really interesting point as it encompasses so many issues regarding media coverage of political events and elections - intimidation, safety of journalist, access to information.  Many thanks for your comment 

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Greetings everyone,

My name is Vusumuzi Sifile, the Executive Director of Panos Institute Southern Africa, a communication for development based in Lusaka, Zambia. I have a strong background in journalism, and I am currently leading my organisation's work on information integrity, with our flagship iVerify Zambia Fact Checking and Response Mechanism.

Many thanks to Ingrid Bicu from International IDEA and Anneliese Mcauliffe from the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre for moderating the discussions in the first two weeks, allowing us to bring out some rich experiences and lessons. I  have followed the discussions over the last two weeks, and greatly appreciated your insights on this important subject.

This week, I will be moderating in this discussion room, and I look forward to serious engagement with you. I believe engagements such as these are very helpful as they enable us to share with each other on various initiatives to promote information integrity and counter information pollution. This is a platforms for us to share ideas on how we can strengthen information integrity which is a key democratic foundation.

We will continue with discussions on gathering best practices, building on what we covered with our first two moderators, Ingrid and Anneliese. There is no one size fits all, but I am confident that from our different experiences, we will be able to find some common ground and inspire each other towards some practical steps.

In this room, we would like to hear about these initiatives and understand what impact they are hoping to achieve. This includes, but is not limited to, building public resilience, supporting quality news media, monitoring and fact-checking, codes of conduct, partnerships with social media platforms, and regulation and legislation efforts. 

In this discussion room, we are discussing and sharing experiences on effective media, civil society, government, private sector or UN-led programmes that have successfully protected information integrity in elections. In our discussions, we also reflecting on how and what digital technologies incorporated into this response, if any, as well as the impact of the initiatives. We encourage you to also share on the lessons you learnt from your initiative, as well as risks and challenges you faced, and how you addressed them.

Please respond to the questions posted on top of this group, and below in your preferred language. For your easy reference, I re-share the questions below:  

  1. Outline effective media, civil society, government, private sector or UN-led programmes that have successfully protected information integrity in elections.
  2. Were any digital technologies incorporated into this response?
  3. What was the intended impact? 
  4. Were you able to measure that impact? 
  5. What were the key lessons you learned implementing this initiative?
  6. What risks and challenges did you face

Let us continue with the discussions, and invite others to join in!

Nic Cheeseman
Nic Cheeseman

It is good to e-meet you! I was in Zambia for the elections and should be again soon.

I would really like to meet up and talk about your work and the Zambia Fact Checking!

Have a good day!

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Hey Nic Cheeseman ,

It is great to connect with you too. There are indeed a lot of exciting experiences being shared here, and I would be glad to meet with you to discuss lessons from the iVerify Zambia, and to get insights from you, especially as someone who was actually in Zambia during the elections in 2021

Nyambe Jere
Nyambe Jere

This is a very interesting chat, and I am keen to learn from peoples experiences, initiatives and intended impact.

In Zambia, during the last general election (2021) we experienced questionable dependability and trustworthiness of information. More specifically, the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of the information content, process, and systems with regards to misinformation, disinformation and hate speech. Some perpetuators included the state, political parties, media and so on.  I'll draw an experience from one particular incident, where for the longest possible time, the Tonga people had been perceived as a minority group. To this effect hate speech had been targeted at them, particularly during the 2021 elections, where the lead opposition political party leader (now current President) Hakainde Hichilema is Tonga.

During the campaign period we saw the then ruling party constantly making inflammatory statements against the Opposition leader because of his tribe. The electoral commission of Zambia later suspended an aspiring candidate for hate speech remarks. Shortly after the suspension was lifted, the candidate made more hate speech remarks. Furthermore, even the president at the time publicly stated that a Tonga would not lead the country. 

This misinformation and hate speech were microtargeted (using/abusing the personal data of individual rights-holders) to play on individual voters’ political beliefs or fears. Regardless of the number of times this happened, we only saw the electoral commission respond once or at the most twice, and with very subtle measures, not strong enough to discourage perpetrators from engaging in these acts.

The slow response by law enforcers could be attributed to the backdrop of outdated election laws and mechanisms, which have led to a rise in misinformation, ‘fake news’ and hate speech, especially online.   

Building on our existing engagement with key partners such as the police and social media companies (including Facebook) in the context of mitigating misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, Panos through the iVerify factchecking mechanism initiative published stories and reports identifying the vices and so far, continues to address the threat to liberal democracy and information integrity. This is through a manner that recognises the seriousness of the challenge posed by online hate speech and fake news, yet also defends freedom of expression and opinion.  

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Nyambe for sharing these reflections, and your experiences as a fact checker of the iVerifty Zambia Fact Checking and Response Mechanism, bringing out examples from your practical experience fact checking election related information pollution. 

Bigambia Bitimi
Bigambia Bitimi

Hi to Everyone, i am Bigambia Bitimi Charles Lebon, student researcher at the university of Douala/independent consultant. 

Concerning the intervention of any organization in the management or protection of such data, from my humble point of view, i haven't yet seen a particular organisation or civil society or un-led, or any media protecting effectively election vote data. This is because most of them are instead orientating these vote data in favour of a particular candidate or party. From my observations and little investigations these society or organisation are not mostly Independent or partial on data protection because each one is willing to stay on a position of power or control. 

In my country i haven't seen any measurable impacts on the transparency of data protection or election process. Instead WE still notice some linkages that favours a particular institution. 

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Bigamba,
It would be great to get more insights from your experience. Otherwise our attempt at Panos through the iVerify Zambia Fact Checking and Response Mechanism, and the collective efforts of the Action Coalition on Information Integrity in Elections, is to provide reliable, impartial and digital secure technology platforms to foster information integrity in elections. As I mentioned earlier, there is no one size fits all, we would love to learn more from what hasnt worked in your context

Bigambia Bitimi
Bigambia Bitimi

Vusumuzi Sifile failure is at the level of voters distribution in different voting centers. Because the control center is unbable to open or permiting a voters to vote at any corner of the country, secondly there is often a problem of double voting where voters vote more than two times. 

Serah Mwenya
Serah Mwenya

For me I would like to weigh in on the risks and challenges we faced. Working on the iVerify project in Zambia as a fact checker has been a very good experience especially witnessing how the public have welcomed the mechanism. However, the process of fact checking presents many risks and challenges, both to individual fact checkers and to the institutions involved.  I personally experienced several security challenges or threats from people who did not understand how the mechanism works, or who felt the mechanism was threatening their well calculated schemes to pollute the information environment during the election. I recall an incident that I personally faced while fact checking claims made by a prominent politician. Instead of addressing the issues that our fact checking had raised, the man threatened violence and other extreme actions on my employers – Panos Institute Southern Africa and myself as an individual fact checker.  It was a very terrifying situation, and the memories of the incident are still fresh. 

The mechanism mostly tackles issues to do with governance – including elections – as we have observed, and they are more pronounced from the period it started working. Misinformation, disinformation and hate speech are around governance issues (politics) and because of this when a fact checker is trying to get evidence for the article that is circulating and it is likely to have misinformation, disinformation or hate speech the sources of misleading information turn to be very difficult to give out information and at times label the factchecker to be affiliated to a certain political party. 

Like I earlier stated, it requires an individual or people to understand that the fact checking process itself does not allow anyone to manipulate the truth in any way regardless of one's political affiliation. It also requires an individual to apply critical thinking and cognitive skills when fact checking stories to do with elections.  

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Serah for bringing out some of the risks and challenges in fact checking electoral information, based on your experience fact checking the 2021 General Elections in Zambia. It would be great to learn from other colleagues how they managed to insulate their fact checking work from individual and institutional threats 

Gideon Chibwe
Gideon Chibwe

Greetings everyone

 

My name is Gideon Chibwe, a Fact-checker and Media Monitor under the iVerify Zambia Project implemented by Panos Institute Southern in Zambia.

I would like to reflect on the key lessons I have learnt in the implementation of this initiative

The iVerify Zambia Mechanism supports national stakeholders including Law Enforcement Agencies, Statutory bodies, the Media, Civil Society, and Political actors to identify, analyze, and respond to the misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech phenomena and support documentation, analysis, knowledge creation, and advocacy on election-related mis- and disinformation and hates speech on both online and offline platforms.

Since its launch in 2021, iVerify Zambia has been committed to producing high-quality fact-checked information in the fight against misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, as well as to spreading media literacy.

*One major lesson is that Fact-checking on its own is a great movement in the right direction however, it is not enough to adequately combat the continued information pollution that is easily circulating on both online and offline media platforms.

To curb the scourge, iVerify Zambia has been conducting trainings for fact checkers, media practitioners, response partners and civil society organisations included were Faith Based Organization’s and Persons with special needs (people living with disability) to create a front line to combat mis- and disinformation. By empowering the public to fact-check information, we are able to defend the integrity of information and overall, democracy and the values and principles that bind us together as a global family.

The trainings have been impactful such that iVerify does not always take up the initiative to identify and mitigate false news anymore, some media practitioners, statutory bodies and the general public (especially university students) have taken up keen interest in the mechanism and some have gone even further as taking up the mantle of fact-checking before sharing their information. This can be attested by the increasing number of stories that iVerify Zambia has been receiving through the Tipline, the website and social media.

 

*Another lesson is that misinformation spreads faster than correct information.

During my time as a Fact Checker and Media Monitor, I have witnessed a lot of fake news spreading like wildfire and one major component of those stories is that they always come with an agenda. To keep up with the pace at which polluted information is spreading, as iVerify Zambia, we had to scale-up our public reach for people to see and access more fact checked information before and after the fake news spreads. This was done through partnering with a Media Consultancy Firm that is helping in advertising the mechanism both online and offline in order to raise awareness of the iVerify initiative, and the opportunities it presents. Also Highlighting the importance of collaboration between actors working on the fact-checking and channels of response, including regulatory and broadcasting of counter messages and overall enhancing the dissemination and use of verified information by the public.

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Gideon. I agree with your observation that fact checking is one of the many ingredients to fight information pollution, but alone it is not adequate to address the challenge. Fact checking needs to be complemented with efforts like response actions, and counter messaging

Janett S'mwanza Xhosa
Janett S'mwanza Xhosa

Greetings everyone in the chat room. I have been following the discussions. I must admit that I am learning so much from you all. I have been compelled to share my experience on mitigating information pollution.

As a media monitor on the iVerify Project that Panos Institute Southern Africa in implementing, we identify stories from all sources of information (print media, online, and sometimes word of mouth). In this digital era where almost, everyone is glued to their digital gadgets, everyone is practicing mobile journalism. We have observed that social media platforms are often considered as a key element that is used to disseminate information.  

  

In Zambia, iVerify Fact Checking and Response Mechanism has proven to be a mechanism that has had protected information integrity before, during and after elections. Through media monitoring stories are identified and then verified.

 

One of the lessons learnt is the importance of being inclusive. The marginalised community whose access to accurate information has been overlooked for a long time. As a Mechanism, we have partnered with community radio stations in the ten (10) Provinces of the country. So, when an article is pre-bunked and/or debunked, the content is shared with partner radio stations that translates the information to a local language and airs the content.

In addition, information integrity can be promoted through digital technologies by ensuring that citizens and media houses have access to verified and accurate information. There is also needed to partner with social media platforms so that accounts created for firm that aim at misleading and spreading false news should be deactivated.

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Janet for highligting the importance of being inclusive, and how the collaboration with community radio stations enabled us to facilitate speedy ideentification and verification of content online and offline. Thank you also for the suggestions for us to continue to explore technological opportunities to enhance information integrity 

Kondwani Thindwa
Kondwani Thindwa

Been following the discussions with keen interest, learning from various experiences, lessons and initiatives on the promotion of information pollution and measures to counter information pollution.

 In Zambia, we at Panos Institute Southern Africa, are implementing the iVerify Zambia fact checking and response mechanism https://iverify.org.zm/ supported by UNDP’s Democracy Strengthening in Zambia (DSZ) project that was instrumental in the mitigation of information pollution and promotion of information integrity before, during and after the 2021 general elections.

Following deliberations in this discussion room, my submission builds on the iVerify initiative that had a huge impact on building public resilience, supporting quality news media, monitoring and fact checking and response towards identifying and mitigating misinformation, disinformation and hate-speech.

During the 2021 general elections in Zambia, iVerify Zambia initiative responded to the threat posed by disinformation by refuting a widely circulating story that led to the buildup of an irate crowd. In the article that had adverse impact, an Electoral Commission officer was alleged to be manipulating votes, were some people misinterpreted the use of a biometric voter verification machine and became suspicious. The timely response and action stopped the story from undermining the integrity of the electoral process, an impact that greatly built public confidence in state institutions such as the Electoral Commission of Zambia https://iverify.org.zm/voter-verification-machine-confused-for-pre-marked-ballots/ This, among many other articles, were some of the  stories that were collectively and timely responded to ensure information integrity during elections in Zambia.

Based on the experience in Zambia, the iVerify initiative has greatly impacted people in Zambia by addressing disinformation and hate speech, that are key to promoting informed, inclusive societies, reducing the risk of electoral violence and therefore ensuring peaceful electoral processes.

 

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Kondwani for sharing examples on how fact checking, followed by relevant and timely response actions, can reduce or help manage the risks associated with misleading or harmful electoral information. 

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Week 3 Summary - Gathering Best Practice 

 

Dear all, 

As we come to the end of our Week 3 discussions, I wish to sincerely thank you all for your engagement. It was great to have colleagues from the iVerify Zambia Fact Checking and Response Mechanism Nyambe Jere Serah Mwenya  Janett S'mwanza Xhosa  Gideon Chibwe Kondwani Thindwa  Brian Simpande for sharing our experiences piloting the Mechanism in Zambia, during and beyond the 2021 General Elections. The iVerify team shared a number of lessons, and examples of some of the pre-bunking, debunking, counter messaging and response actions. 

Bigambia Bitimi  raised concern about the limited visibility or absence of initiatives relating to election vote data, and the tendency of some actors to be biased. From the submissions during the week, the following were the key takeaways:

  1. It is important to identify and understand the interests of the different actor, processes, systems and structures at play in the creation and spead of harmful and misleading content, taking into account the observation by Nyambe Jere that the perpetrators are diverse, including state entities, political parties, media, civil society, and others.
  2. Fact checking can be risky, and requires necessary precautionary and mitigatibve measures to safeguard the fact checking teams and associated institutions, as shared by Serah Mwenya  who as a fact checker was subjected to threats by an influential politician. 
  3. More must be done in relation to the access to and management of election related data, which at times is also at the centre of misinformation and disinformation, as observed by Bigambia Bitimi.  
  4. As effective as it is, fact checking on its own is not enough, it must be complemented by other efforts, as observed by Gideon Chibwe, who also highlighted the fact that misinformation spreads faster than correct information, raising the need for fact checking entities and members of the public to be proactive. 
  5. Janett S'mwanza Xhosa emphasised the need for inclusivity, ensuring that our fact checking efforts leave noone behind.
  6. Kondwani Thindwa provided examples of how the iVerify handled specific election related stories. 

I trust that all colleagues following this discussion wilkl find the submissions from the iVerify team and other colleagues valuable. I encourage you to keep the discussions going, in this room and in the other discussion rooms.

Looking forward to more engagement as we go into the next week.

Best,

Vusumuzi 

 

Carolyne Wilhelm
Carolyne Wilhelm Moderator

Hello everyone! 

Welcome to the last week of the Promoting Information Integrity in Elections. We've had wonderful discussion so far in this chatroom and I hope we can continue to share our valuable insights and build on what has been previously discussed. 

This week, I and Bianca Lapuz will be moderating the discussion. We are interns with IDEA's Electoral Processes team and are excited to continue engaging with you about what strategies have been implemented, the lessons learned, and future plans for protecting the integrity of information. 

As a reminder, let's keep the conversation focused around our key questions:

  1. Outline effective media, civil society, government, private sector or UN-led programmes that have successfully protected information integrity in elections.
  2. Were any digital technologies incorporated into this response?
  3. What was the intended impact?
  4. Were you able to measure that impact?
  5. What were the key lessons you learned implementing this initiative?
  6. What risks and challenges did you face?
Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Thank you Carolyne and Bianca for continuing the discussion. As my colleagues from iVerify Zambia shared last week, our approach in Zambia attempts to bring together different state and non-state actors. Our Mechanism is a collaborative effort led by civil society, but working closely with statutory bodies, law enforcers, media entities (mainstream and community, online and offline), content platforms, the private sector, opinion leaders, basically everyone. The mechanism is based on a technology based intervention but with a strong human in the loop element for analysing and processing content. We are still working on improving the mechanism, and we are greatly encouraged by the many ideas we are getting from this discussion. 

Bianca Lapuz
Bianca Lapuz Moderator

Vusumuzi Sifile -thank you very much for further elaborating on iVerify. I read the earlier posts on the project, and I think one of my takeaways is that swift, decisive, and corrective information from monitors but most especially election authorities can make a big difference in promoting and protecting information integrity during elections.

I think this is taking shape more concretely in the Philippines as well (where I am originally from). In the past years there have been pro-active efforts in the country to involve citizens in generating timely and verifiable news content on social media and other traditional media platforms. Media groups recruited "citizen journalists" especially during the time when online networking sites and more advance phones emerged. This later on progressed to more organic fact-checking initiatives as well of media organizations. Of course, these initiatives have been especially useful during elections with a media group publishing what it analyzed as a complex and purposeful utilization of trolls and bots to spread fake news during polls.

Further, the election management body later on also updated its rules and regulations on campaigns to cover social media. More specifically it required political parties and candidates to declare who paid for or supported the online publication of campaign ads. I am just not as immersed in projects in the country at the moment since I am based in Stockholm currently, but I think this discussion on best practices is a great opportunity to learn and improve on our existing efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation. I hope that there will be more comments today and tomorrow, before we conclude the discussion week! Thanks everyone!

Bianca Lapuz
Bianca Lapuz Moderator

Good morning everyone! Just checking in as well. As Carolyne mentioned, we look forward to continuing the discussion with you on protecting the integrity of information in elections. We hope that we can keep the sharing of insights coming. Thank you.

Carolyne Wilhelm
Carolyne Wilhelm Moderator

Good morning! 

Before the week comes to an end, I wanted to raise a question to the room. Serah Mwenya mentioned how fact-checkers became associated with certain political parties after calling out false claims made by political leaders. In the USA, similar accusations were made against fact-checking groups in the 2012 and especially in the 2016 presidential elections. This not only makes fact-checking riskier for the individual fact-checkers but contributes to greater information pollution and confusion.

In your experience, what are some practices or measures which work to mitigate this effect and build up public trust in fact-checking? 

Vusumuzi Sifile
Vusumuzi Sifile Moderator

Hey Carolyne,

Apologies for responding too late. Indeed, from our experience, we have seen that fact checking can be risky both to the individual fact checkers, the responsible organisation, and other actors supporting the verification. It was, and still is, not easy especially where the political environment is heated up, where political tensions are high. In Zambia, we focused a lot on bringing on board and getting the buy-in of a vast array of stakeholders, including those that negatively viewed the mechanism, and constantly engaging them, sharing with them the value the mechanism brings to mitigate the effects of mis/disinformation and hate speech, and making them realise they also have a key role to play in curbing the vice. Some would obviously shun our efforts, such as the one who threatened Serah and Panos as an institutionm, but most of them would respond positively. In cases where we feel individual fact checkers may be exposed to danger, we limit the level of identification. Like recently, we were producing some publicity materials, and we deliberately avoided prominently using images of the individual fact checkers. We are still navigating the space and "learning on the job", experimenting, at times getting it wrong, and building on it until we get it right. I would be keen to learn more from colleagues, even after this discussion on some of the practical ways of handling such situations. 

Bigambia Bitimi
Bigambia Bitimi

Good Afternoon to Everyone. The intended impact of technologies on election disformation management is to secure and monitoring or control of very sensitive data. 

Bigambia Bitimi
Bigambia Bitimi

Measuring the impact of this action wasn't possible for me. 

The lessons learned throughout the implementation of this process is that whils the arrival of new technologies on election disformation management, there are still many gaps on the security of these technologies. 

Jasmin Gilera
Jasmin Gilera
  1. Outline effective media, civil society, government, private sector or UN-led programmes that have successfully protected information integrity in elections.
     
  • Parish Pastoral Council Responsible Voting – a non-partisan, non-sectarian non-profit organization that works to ensure free, fair and fraud-free elections in the Philippines.
  • “Dapat Totoo” campaign by GMA News and Public Affairs – designed to educate and engage readers for the 2022 Philippined Elections. The digital campaign used multiple platforms extensively to impart facts and knowledge especially the youth. Also aimed at resisting fake news and misinformation.
  • Bilang Pilipino 2022 Election Campaign by TV 5 – advocacy to inform, educate and encourage voters to make responsible and guided decisions in the 2022 elections. Initiated this advocacy to encourage voters to become well informed, responsible and conscientious voters.
  1. Were any digital technologies incorporated into this response?

 

YES.

 

  1. What was the intended impact?
     

With the use of technology, many Filipinos get the news through digital channels, mobile phones and local online channels. Major TV channels provided special coverage of elections online to help keep track of election returns, providing real time leaderboards and infographics. They deliver election related news via live streaming channels and the use of social media.

 

  1. Were you able to measure that impact?

YES. The election process and results are considered by the public to be generally successful. This can be manifested through the number of online views, likes, shares and even hashtags.
 

  1. What were the key lessons you learned implementing this initiative?

As a voter, you should verify the veracity of the information you have read. Be responsible in using social media platforms. 
 

  1. What risks and challenges did you face?

It will take time to validate information.

Bianca Lapuz
Bianca Lapuz Moderator

Weak 4 Summary - Gathering Best Practices

 

Before we finally close the discussion last week, allow us to thank everyone who shared their input! Gathering best practices on protecting the integrity of information in elections is a crucial task in developing future programmatic work in democracy building.

Last week, Vusumuzi Sifile reiterated the magnificent work of Zambian practitioners and organizations behind iVerify. The said project showcased how technology, in the hands of free and fair elections advocates, could really serve the purpose of protecting the integrity of data in elections.

I also shared about initiatives in the Philippines that began circa 2008 that encouraged the participation of citizens in creating accurate and reliable news information, which became especially helpful in elections and how the work on fact-checking built on this foundation of citizen engagement.

In connection with the Philippines, Jasmin Gilera mentioned some specific projects of poll monitoring groups and media organizations in fact-checking specifically focused on elections. She noted how both traditional media platforms and online networks were used to disseminate election monitoring updates such as through news broadcasting and/or online live streaming.

Carolyne also mentioned about the danger of tagging fact-checkers as partisan as this could severely impact their credibility, which was the case in the US in some election years. Finally, Bigambia Bitimi also acknowledged that security gaps remained a concern even as technology provided useful tools to help us protect sensitive data.

All these insights will help us maximize the availability and capacity of technology to further enhance the credibility of elections and strengthen democracies around the world. Once again, thank you for contributing to the discussion!