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Meta Collaborates with IEC to Combat Election Misinformation for 2024 South African Polls

Published March 24, 2024
2 months ago

As South Africa gears up for its national elections in 2024, a critical alliance has been formed to safeguard the integrity of its democratic process. Meta, the parent company of social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has joined forces with the South African Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to combat the specter of misinformation.

Meta's President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, spoke with Business Times, detailing the extensive involvement Meta has with the IEC. Training workshops have been conducted to ensure the Electoral Commission can leverage WhatsApp bots effectively to disseminate credible election information. Additionally, Meta has briefed various political parties and committees in Parliament on the social media tools available and their election preparedness initiatives.

However, the road to a misinformation-free election is not without its challenges. Clegg highlighted concerns surrounding new technologies, such as generative AI, which necessitates stringent guardrails. At the recent Munich Security Conference, Meta and other tech giants signed a voluntary agreement to address the potential abuse of AI in propagating misinformation.

Clegg noted that despite fears of AI-driven election manipulation, incidents so far in global elections have been limited. But, he stresses the constant vigilance required as such dynamics can change rapidly.

In the run-up to the elections scheduled for May 29, 2024, President Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted the first-time participation of independent candidates in addition to nearly 370 political parties. Notwithstanding, the IEC has encountered issues with data leaks, compromising the confidentiality of candidate lists for the ANC and MK parties. In response, a staff member was dismissed, and the Information Regulator launched a probe, spotlighting South Africa's commitment to data protection under POPIA regulations.

Additionally, ensuring the inclusivity of the South African diaspora, an online voter registration system for overseas nationals was introduced in December 2023. Within two months, it recorded over 30,000 registrations, surpassing the 2019 national elections' figure for external voters.

This collaboration between Meta and the IEC, along with the proactive measures the Commission and the Information Regulator are taking against data breaches, indicates a concerted effort to maintain the sanctity of South Africa's electoral process.

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