Australia’s electoral body has launched a new disinformation register to debunk misleading and deceptive information regarding how elections are run to protect the integrity of the country’s upcoming federal election.
The new register comes in response to an uptick of election conspiracy theories circulating online in recent months due to it being a federal election year.
According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the disinformation register is a regularly updated database containing examples of disinformation and misinformation that has circulated online from late 2021 onwards.
The AEC explained that each piece of disinformation discovered by the commission would be presented in the register with information about which platform it was spread on, the timing, the factual information regarding the matter, and the actions taken by the commission to correct the record.
“We’re not messing around,” AEC chief Tom Rogers said.
“The Australian vote belongs to all Australians and there is freedom of political communication. However, if you spread incorrect information about the processes we run — deliberately or otherwise — we’ll correct you.”
Examples of disinformation that have already been added to the register are that people will only be eligible to vote if they are fully vaccinated and that pencil marks are erased in the counting process. Both of these pieces of information are mistruths, the register states.
Beyond the disinformation register tool, the AEC has been working more closely with social media platforms to quickly remove election misinformation and disinformation. As part of this, all major social media platforms have given “assurances” that they will allocate more resources for monitoring election disinformation and misinformation for the upcoming Australian federal election.
“For this election, we’re getting assurances from all of them that they will be expanding their hours of service, including having not just expanded hours of service here in Australia but then actually having staff in other parts of the world so that they can try and get as close to 24/7 coverage — so they’re not confined by the business hours of the staff here in Australia,” deputy electoral commissioner Jeff Pope said last month.