The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Jean Mensa, has expressed support for the establishment of a regulatory framework to govern the use of social media during elections to safeguard the peace and security of the nation.
She emphasised the need for clear regulations regarding the use of social media in the context of elections.
Speaking at a seminar last Thursday on the theme “The Impact of Disinformation on Electoral Integrity, Peace and Security in Africa,” Mrs Mensa said one of the most pressing challenges confronting electoral management bodies today was the proliferation of fake news and disinformation campaigns on social media platforms.
“Indeed, the culture of spreading fake news or falsehood is not a new phenomenon but the advent of the internet and social media has allowed it to spread at a faster and more widespread rate, with a damaging consequence to electoral management bodies and elections,” she added.
She noted that social media if not properly managed could pose a real threat to elections and destabilise the peace and security of the country.
Mrs Mensa added that the Commission would be happy if regulation was put in place to manage social media use, especially during elections to check mis/disinformation.
“We, at the Electoral Commission of Ghana, support the development of a framework to guide the use of social media around elections and the peace and security of our respective countries.”
She assured of the Commission’s commitment to delivering a free and fair general election in 2024.
“We do not doubt that, as was the case in 2020, we will carry the citizens along with us and build public trust and confidence in our work, and ultimately maintain the peace and security of our dear nation,” she assured.
On his part, Dr Kevin Casas Zamora, the Secretary-General of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), described disinformation as a “virus” that exploits already existing weaknesses in the information system.
“This pandemic of disinformation is thus both deeply rooted and truly global, at the International IDEA, we are engaging with this growing challenge for democracy through our new work stream that looks, especially at the intersection of digitalisation and democracy, including how to build trust and the resilience of democratic institutions and processes against disinformation and other digital threats,” he stated.
“With this, we are implementing several projects aimed at protecting electoral integrity by advising election management bodies and other authorities on best practices, convening spaces for dialogue and providing technical assistance,” he added.
The Minister for National Security, Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, explained that disinformation and misinformation ranked high on the list of security challenges confronting Ghana.
“In West Africa, for instance, the overthrow of democratically elected governments and the emergence of military rule, are largely fueled by mis/disinformation. Mis/disinformation has emerged as potent tools that are utilised for influence operations and malicious campaigns that undermine electoral integrity, peace and also security,” he added.
Mr Dapaah said these campaigns were orchestrated by a spectrum of actors, including state and non-state entities, local and foreign actors, as well as political and nonpolitical players.
He, therefore, stressed the need for collaboration among all stakeholders, including civil society organisations and the media, in the fight against the phenomenon.
Joyce Adwoa Animia Ocran, ISD