The swift development of internet, social media, and artificial intelligence (AI) has had an unprecedented impact on the communication ecosystem and speed and scale of citizen practices related to access and use of information. While it contributed to inclusion, transparency and participation in the governance realm, these developments also carried risks and challenges to the integrity of the information landscape with ramifications for democratic processes.
Elections are “lightning rod” events and represent opportunities for actors to exert influence over public opinion; thereby potentially shifting political outcomes. Information pollution and hate speech are being weaponised for political gain on a scale never experienced before. They form a threat to healthy democratic processes and therefore to democracy itself; degrading public discourse, sowing confusion and mistrust among voters, silencing political opposition, undermining women’s political participation and amplifying political polarisation. The stakes are incredibly high.
And yet, particularly in new and emerging digital societies, Election Management Bodies, journalists, elections observers and others often find themselves on the backfoot when confronted with elections-related disinformation and hate speech, struggling to stem the flow, correct the record and protect voters’ access to trustworthy information. UNDP has seen significantly increased demand expressed by national counterparts in all regions to better manage elections disinformation and hate speech.
In order to respond to this demand, the Brussels-based Electoral Assistance Task Force in partnership with the UNDP Chief Digital Office, working closely with the Crisis Bureau and the Oslo Governance Center, has built a package of support to customize, roll out and manage a digital platform to identify, analyse, and counter disinformation in challenging governance environments, called iVerify. Mutualizing resources and expertise, the iVerify initiative leverages UNDP expertise (in the field) to allow for easy and cost-effective replication and customization at country level.
iVerify is a comprehensive support package which has at its core an online monitoring and fact-checking platform. It is intended to allow for ongoing, real-time identification of, and response to, harmful content online and combines two powerful digital solutions, Facebook’s CrowdTangle monitoring tool and Meedan’s fact-checking tool. Technical expertise is provided to UNDP Country teams and national counterparts to customize and rollout the system according to local needs and conditions.
In essence, the iVerify tool equips national stakeholders to better respond to the challenge of elections-related information pollution in three ways:
The mechanism is guided by the following principles
The iVerify implementation requires technical support to ensure national partners are capacitated for the identification and mitigation of mis/disinformation and hate speech, more specifically the following steps should be undertaken:
Assessment, Programming and planning :
Institutional Capacity building :
Digital package solutions :
Communication and Monitoring & Evaluation :
Current countries where iVerify is active, or will be, include:
Zambia: completed for the 2021 elections, continuation of support in the long-term.
Honduras: completed for the 2021 elections
Kenya: completed for the 2022 elections, evaluation completed with support of the Danish funded Tech for Demcracy
Liberia: Ongoing deployment/operationalization. Elections 2023.
Sierra Leone: Ongoing deployment/operationalization. Elections 2023.
Pakistan: Assessment completed, planning of deployment/operationalization. Elections 2023.