A must-read story from the Wa. Post on how Australia combats election disinformation:
In a Canberra office covered in computer screens, the alerts began pouring in.
“This needs a #FactCheck,” one person tweeted.
“Is this not illegal?” another asked.
Tagged in the torrent of tweets was the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). Within minutes, the federal agency responded, calling the video “false” and “disappointing.” The agency’s actions quickly led Twitter to label the cartoon as “misleading,” and Facebook and TikTok took it down completely.
The incident last month reflects the rising tide of misinformation Australia faces as it prepares to go to the polls on Saturday. But it also shows the benefit of a single agency overseeing a country’s electoral process….
“There are a myriad of major and minor differences in how electoral laws and regulations are administered across America,” said Pippa Norris, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “This violates basic principles of equality and consistency in electoral processes and voting rights, leads to excessively partisan considerations gaming the system, and encourages numerous malpractices.”
Australia’s electoral system, in contrast, is praised by analysts around the world.
Steven J. Mulroy, a professor at the University of Memphis and the author of a book on American election law, called it the “gold standard in election administration.”…
As the challenges have changed, so, too, has the AEC.
When Ekin-Smyth joined in 2011, the AECdidn’t even have a Twitter account. A decade later, half a dozen people now help him tweet at a blistering pace: up to two dozen times per hour. It also has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, has partnered with TikTok on an election guide, and has held an “Ask me Anything” on Reddit….
“We’re not blind to the fact that social media moves incredibly swiftly,” Ekin-Smyth said. “And the action that social media organizations can take is brilliant. But the action we can take even quicker by responding on our channels is perhaps going to be even more effective.”…
“A party or candidate talking about another party, their policies, their history — we cannot be the regulators of truth for that,” Ekin-Smyth said. “We don’t have legislation that allows it. But also there would be some practical problems and some perception problems if we were making decisions on those things.”…
With social media stoking tribalism, the AEC requires all its employees — including its 100,000 temporary election workers — to sign a declaration of political neutrality.
“There is a lot of responsibility to it,” Ekin-Smyth said, “because a failed election — real or perceived — as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, is potentially devastating.”