As the 2019 national and provincial elections drawing nearer, it is anticipated that social media will be abuzz with propaganda and fake news as a means to try and influence potential voters on issues pertaining to the elections.
Political commentator, Professor William Gumede says two factors – social media influence and its impact on the youth – will have an influence on the upcoming elections.
Gumede says these two factors will make the upcoming elections interesting, adding that these elections will be a bit different because of these factors.
“Our 2019 elections will for the first time be a social media contested election.”
Listen to Professor William Gumede:
Gumede says the disinformation distributed on social media will leave the electoral commission and regulatory bodies like Icasa with a headache of trying to figure out how to deal with such.
“Because social media is also faceless, people can put information out there. But if you put the same information out and you appear on TV, then we know it is you telling the information; and we can identify you, if you tell a lie. Which is not the case on social media, because it is anonymous.”
Listen to Gumede talk about the challenges of regulating social media:
One of the main dangers of using social media is trusting what you see on your timeline and being quick to retweet or share such information.
Gumede advises social media users to be vigilant and interrogate any information they find online.
Media watch dog, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has brought out a guide to help raise awareness on digital (online) disinformation. They give four points to consider when verifying suspicious content:
1. Check the source
2. Check the facts
3. Check the intent
4. Look for counter arguments
You can read more on the MMA disinformation checklist here.