‘Tech, human capacity essential to fighting misinformation in polls’

2019 elections
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The University of Pretoria’s Prof. Vukosi Marivate says a mix of technology and human capacity is essential to fight misinformation and disinformation effectively in this year’s elections

The university and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) briefed the media today on efforts to combat these phenomena.

The institutions have warned that this type of information has the potential to engender mistrust in the electoral system, culminating in societal polarisation and violence.

Marivate says, “What you need is almost like to have an information centre that is staffed with people before elections just to check for such things and to coordinate such platforms and the resourcing is not small to be able to do that well. The AI systems or the automated systems are just a helping tool for those types of things and that’s why you need to add that as well as the public education.”

“You need to be battling this on different platforms but there is a lot of work that is still going into that, we are doing a lot in looking at how misinformation may be spread in Tshivenda, in Setswana, in isiZulu and how that might be different to the one that is created in English in South Africa.”

The CSIR says the scourge of misinformation and disinformation can effectively be tackled by closing the digital literacy gap between South Africa’s haves and have-nots.

The Council’s Researcher,  Zubeida Dawood says, “As leaders we need to be resilient and take a proactive stance and to ensure that even people in disadvantaged communities, these are the people who do not have access to a variety of different news, they solely focus on what they get and so to just tackle those kinds of areas because  even if you are in a disadvantaged community you may still have a cellphone, but you are not so clued up on the regulations and education around it.”

“So it is really important for us to partner with even the private sector to get funding for us to all come together to see how we can really close the cyber security skills gap as well as digital literacy,” Dawood adds.

The video below is on combating elections disinformation: