Social media and elections

15 November 2020

The influence of disinformation campaigns (known as fake news) in electoral processes was and is at the center of the debates in the directions of contemporary democracies in the last five years.

Election processes of decision makers in several countries, as well as electoral processes for thematic decision making (plebiscites and referendums) on all continents have been characterized by a common question: what was the role played by misinformation in these various cases?

There are no conclusive answers to this relevant question. However, there is a consensus that it was not a minor role and, even more worrisome, is the real risk that this potential negative influence grows.

For this reason, electoral authorities, political parties, internet platforms, media, organized civil society, international organizations, among others, are concerned with the impacts of a phenomenon that is not new in its essence, but that it is new regarding its dimensions and implications.

In this context, UNESCO has invited the British expert on digital rights and freedom of expression, Andrew Puddephatt, to produce a reflection on how electoral authorities can, in cooperation with the other actors in this ecosystem, face the challenges that the campaigns of misinformation imposed for the guarantee of free, fair and plural elections.

The Social Media and Elections policy paper presents concrete suggestions for a co-regulation model in a complex area of central relevance for the consolidation of our democracies.

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