African Electoral Authorities workshop mull social media guidelines in elections

Protecting the integrity of elections and electoral processes in Africa has been the focus of a two-day workshop held at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The aim of the workshop was to validate the guidelines and principles for the use of digital and social media in elections on the continent.

The Association of African Electoral Authorities tasked South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission to spearhead the process.

IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo says the electoral bodies are on the verge of producing a groundbreaking document for the enrichment of the continent that is so clearly needed to improve the electoral processes.

“Left unattended Social Media stands to impact elections on the continent.”

He adds: “We need to breathe life into the document before its adoption. It has to be accompanied by some implementation or adoption framework.”

Recommendations coming out of the workshop include, among others, adapting the guidelines to suit the various countries and regions’ dynamics; making sure they are translated into different languages for better understanding; and more engagement with private stakeholders such as social media platforms, political parties, think tanks and media monitoring organisations.

Social media platforms Google, Meta and TikTok also engaged delegates on the possible implications of having guidelines and cautioned against being prescriptive on the dissemination of election information.

They agreed that a collaborative effort is needed to put in place tools to safeguard the integrity of the electoral while protecting the human rights of others and the right to information.

The abuse and violation of the rights of women parliamentarians and politicians and journalists on social media was also a hot topic at the meeting.

Tanzanian parliamentarian Neema Lungangira shared her experience of being attacked on social media:

They encouraged the electoral bodies to partner with their platforms to educate and inform users about elections in their respective countries.

Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, did not attend the workshop but was invited.

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