Furthermore, the Electoral Act is a code of conduct that political parties must sign, which promotes favorable conditions for free and fair elections. The Electoral Act promotes democratic political activity, free political campaigning, and open public debate. The political parties are obligated to respect the role of the media and ensure that journalists are not subjected to any harassment, intimidation, or physical assault by any of their representatives or supporters. Additionally, the Electoral Act provides for the establishment of an Electoral Court, which has the power to hear and determine disputes that arise from electoral processes.

Nomshado Lubisi Nkosikulu, the communications manager at Media Monitoring Africa, highlighted the lack of transparency and communication from political parties and law enforcement agencies, which could potentially compromise the integrity of the elections. These bodies must be open and transparent in their decision-making processes and provide regular updates to the public on their actions. Moreover, the Electoral Integrity Dialogue examines the impact of digital and social media on election outcomes and the efforts made to mitigate online risks. Political parties must be aware of the risks associated with social media and take measures to prevent the spread of false information. The Real 411, launched in 2019, provides a platform for the public to report digital harms, including disinformation. This ensures that online content is assessed and addressed in an independent, open, transparent, and accountable manner within our laws and constitutional rights.

Kirsten Cosser from Africa Check, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organisation that aims to decrease the circulation of disinformation in the public debate and make accurate information available, discussed the types of false information that may circulate on social media during the election period. This may include videos and images taken out of context or deepfakes. Media coalitions and partnerships with various stakeholders are key to combating disinformation. This involves working with news, media, and civil society organisations across different mediums, such as online and print, news, radio, and TV, to fact-check claims made by political parties and provide voters with reliable, nonpartisan information on key issues. Digital literacy and fact-checking training are also crucial in combating the spread of disinformation. The media coalition partners include fact-checking organisations such as Africa Check and AFP Fact Check, media outlets Daily Maverick, Mail & Guardian, Caxton Local Media, SABC News, Tuks FM 107.2, and SECTION27.

Katarzyna Anna Klimowicz, Project Manager for the Best Practices in Exporting Expertise (BPEE) project at TechSoup Europe, discussed TechSoup’s activity regarding countering disinformation within the Digital Activism Program leveraged by the Hive Mind Community platform. TechSoup Europe, being a part of the TechSoup Global Network of over 60 organizations worldwide, runs the Digital Activism Program to equip civil society actors, educators, activists, and minorities with technology, knowledge, and skills for digital activism to achieve social and environmental progress. Within the BPEE project (which is part of TechSoup’s Digital Activism Program portfolio), the focus is to build resilience against disinformation in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa by training local governments, communicators, and civil society representatives. The BPEE project and the Digital Activism Program draw on the community and the educational resources, tech tools, Local Actions case studies, and relevant, localized blog articles on the Hive Mind Community platform, a dedicated learning space for digital activists. Via Hive Mind Community, civil society actors can expand their acumen and strengthen digital defenses through free, self-paced courses on countering disinformation, digital safety and security, building positive narratives, media literacy online, personal and organizational resilience, or online campaigning.

Abongile Mashele, the head of Government Affairs and Public Policy at Google, has stated that Google has a global presence and takes initiatives to preserve the integrity of the electoral process. This is done by connecting voters to credible election information and protecting the platform from abuse. Engineering is utilized to ensure that certain content does not get amplified on their platforms. Policies are in place to either remove content before it is made public or remove it after it has been published. For instance, in South Africa, authoritative sources like the IEC are highlighted at the top of the search results page. Google has developed a political advertising policy to identify political ads on their platform. They have a Trust and Safety team that manages online content and tools to detect and remove misinformation and disinformation. Members of the public can report any issues, and Google troubleshoots and responds immediately. High-profile individuals are also protected from cyber-attacks and misuse of their information during campaigns.

All the insightful subject matter experts emphasized the importance of media and digital literacy in combating disinformation and creating a resilient environment. It is imperative to note that safeguarding the integrity of elections is the foundation of democratic governance and promotes political stability. Electoral integrity aims to ensure that elections are conducted fairly, transparently, and accurately, thereby upholding democratic principles and fostering public trust in the electoral process. Respecting elections and protecting their integrity is crucial to ensure that the citizens will is accurately reflected in the election outcomes. The electoral process must be transparent, impartial, and free from any form of manipulation or interference.

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