Misinformation at election time

In our country, to prevent the dissemination of false content via social networks and other platforms from having a negative impact on this year’s legislative elections, the National Electoral Chamber has launched the “Digital Ethical Commitment” once again. It is an initiative, according to the Electoral Tribunal, that seeks to enhance the integrity of the democratic debate with the aim of “contributing to mitigating the negative effects of the dissemination of false content and other methods of disinformation on social networks and other digital environments”.

The phenomenon of fake news, also known as fake news, is a concern in democracies around the world. A report from the Center for the Implementation of Public Policy for Equity and Growth (Cippec), titled “The 2021 elections in Argentina. Disinformation challenges to democratic integrity,” warns that this type of “deliberate and coordinated disinformation aimed at manipulating public opinion can have profound implications for democracies:” They affect the integrity of public debate, contribute to polarization, and weaken trust in “democratic institutions, and thus affect the fairness of political competition and the right of citizens to exercise an informed vote.”

The book “The Truth of False News” by Spanish journalist Marc Amoros, deals with this phenomenon and explains that it revolves around lies that are generally spread through social networks, with the emergence of real news to deceive the elderly .. a large number of people. On the other hand, this week, The New York Times published an investigation by Max Fisher, a reporter for that medium, entitled “The Dark Work of Disinformation.” There, it was revealed that there are secret companies in different parts of the world that spread lies and provide sums of money to some influential figures in social networks to interfere in the electoral processes. The memo cites as an example what happened last May when a PR agency in London contacted several social media celebrities from France and Germany and offered to pay them to promote certain messages on behalf of a client. If they accept the request, they will receive a short document of no more than three pages that explains the false content they have to post and the different platforms they have to use to make that message viral.

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Returning to what the Spanish journalist Amoros raises in his book, it is worth highlighting the paragraph in which he explained, in fact, that the concept of fake news (as the problem is called in the Anglo-Saxon world) is not a new one. Rather, this is a new phenomenon. What happens, he notes, is that before lies were reduced to a circle of friends, but now with the help and tremendous power of social networks they can reach thousands or millions of people within a few hours. Scope, Amoros reflects, will depend on the reliable elements it contains and who or who is interested in spreading the deception.

It was recently pointed out in this same column that citizens need accurate information every day to better understand complex reality and make decisions. To do this, they often pay special attention to expressions and discussions that address issues of interest to the audience. What happens is that many take for granted that what is read and heard is backed up by data, but it so happens that if you carefully analyze some of the rhetoric that is meant to be anchored in public opinion, you will notice that much of what is being said is only it. It is based on bias.

In this year of elections in our country, it is necessary to promote a more critical conscience of citizenship so that, as the National Electoral Chamber points out, it is possible to counter the manipulation of digital content without undermining freedom of expression, understood as a necessary tool for ensuring freedom of information and the formation of public opinion.

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