Electoral processes have become one of the perfect targets for those who promote disinformation and misinformation. Unfortunately, not only citizens have fallen into their nets, but also the media and journalists have faced the difficult challenge of identifying it and combating its effect on society.
Against this backdrop, and with several countries in the region about to hold elections, the Latam Chequea network and UNESCO are offering a series of free talks [in Spanish] entitled "Strategies to counteract electoral disinformation in Latin America and the Caribbean," as part of the PortalCheck project. This project, developed by the Argentinean website Chequeado, together with the network and UNESCO, seeks a deeper understanding of the electoral disinformation circulating in the region. It seeks to share it with key actors, so they can find tools to combat it.
"The effects of disinformation in elections have been especially worrisome in recent years. Attempts have been made to delegitimize the outcome of elections based on disinformation, which can affect citizens' confidence in democratic processes. There is also disinformation that seeks to prevent people from voting — for example, by misinforming them about the day or place of voting — or to confuse them and affect their ability to cast a valid vote," Olivia Sohr, director of Impact and New Initiatives at Chequeado, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).
According to Sohr, the talks seek precisely to discuss the tools that different "key actors" can use most effectively.
"The specific actions are different depending on the type of actor, but we hope they will help us to be better prepared to act quickly and mitigate the effect of disinformation in electoral processes," she added.
Taking into account this differential factor, the talks are aimed at three key actors: journalists, secondary school teachers and electoral bodies. Each of these talks, designed with particularities for each group, will have a duration of two hours and will be held virtually.
In the case of journalists, the first talk will take place this June 6 at 5 p.m. (Argentina time) and the next one will be on Wednesday, June 14 at 10 a.m. (Argentina time). Talks for electoral authorities are scheduled for July 5 (3 p.m. Argentina time) and Thursday, July 13 (10 a.m. Argentina time).
Talks for journalists will focus on how they can identify and counteract electoral disinformation through different strategies, such as not amplifying disinformation and how to disprove it, as well as how to work with especially vulnerable audiences, Sohr said. However, in all of them there will be common introductory points related to the phenomenon of disinformation itself and how false content circulates.
The experience of the Latam Chequea network, coordinated by Chequeado, in different countries of the region, shaped the content of the lectures. In this sense, these lessons can be useful for any country in the region.
"Disinformation in electoral contexts poses a great threat to democracy. At UNESCO, we believe that the best strategy to counteract this phenomenon is to generate the ability in citizens to detect disinformation, know the ways in which it spreads, not contribute to its dissemination, and even create counter-narratives," said Rosa M. González, UNESCO's regional advisor on Communication and Information for Latin America and the Caribbean. "To empower citizens, we work especially with key actors such as journalists and the media, electoral authorities, and educators. The PortalCheck - Elections project offers training series and useful tools for this purpose."
Participation is free of charge, but requires prior registration through this form.