Social media platforms have ‘provided’ 24/7 disinformation monitoring for Australia’s upcoming federal election

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The circulation of electoral conspiracy theories in Australia has increased, with the country due to hold its federal elections later this year, Australia’s Electoral Commissioner said on Tuesday evening.

Appearing before Senate estimates, AEC Commissioner Tom Rogers said the rise in election conspiracy theories mirrored what had happened in foreign jurisdictions.

Among the conspiracies published online is that mail-in voting is not secure, Rogers said. The AEC commissioner also warned against further election conspiracies, specifically debunking misinformation that unvaccinated people will not be allowed to vote in person.

“One [conspiracy] doesn’t seem to be going away is that somehow we’re requiring voters to be vaccinated, and that’s going to stop people from voting,’ he said, confirming that people will be allowed to vote in person, regardless of their vaccination status.

To address the rise of conspiracy theories, Rogers said his agency is working more closely with social media platforms to quickly remove election misinformation and misinformation.

For a case of mail-in voting conspiracy content occurring online, the commissioner said his agency pointed out to Twitter that the content violated the platform’s terms of service, which resulted in the removal of these information within three hours.

“Twitter and others are rightly criticized, but it’s a cry for them to be very reactive to remove something that is dangerous,” Rogers said.

He noted, however, that tackling election disinformation is a complex issue because the nature of some conspiracies means their suppression can fuel the creation of new conspiracies.

“[This] can become very circular, so you have to exercise some judgment on how we deal with these issues,” he said.

Rogers added that while the AEC was able to contact Twitter, negotiations are still ongoing with Digital Industry Group Inc (DiGi), the industry group that champions big tech, to create a formal protocol for working with media platforms. social media to suppress election misinformation. and misinformation.

Meanwhile, all major social media platforms have given “assurances” that they will allocate more resources to monitoring election disinformation and misinformation for Australia’s upcoming federal election, said Deputy Election Commissioner Jeff Pope, who appeared alongside Rogers during Senate estimates.

“For this election, we are getting assurances from each of them that they will be extending their hours of service, including not only having extended hours of service here in Australia, but actually having staff in other parts around the world so they can try to get as close coverage as possible 24/7 so they’re not restricted by staff opening hours here in Australia,” explained Pope.

“For example, some of them have staff here in Australia, they have a regional office in Singapore, and then they have another office in Europe. They will effectively follow the sun as we go through the election to try to get as much maximum coverage as possible.”

For the next federal election, where voting is mandatory, the commission plans to go through 4.5 million pencils – up from 100,000 in 2019 – along with 34,000 bottles of surface cleaner and 63,000 liters of hand sanitizer in as part of its pandemic security measures.

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