26 September 2023

Electoral office ready for ballot disinformation

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The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has launched a new online ‘misinformation register’ to increase public awareness of common electoral myths ahead of the November State election.

Electoral Commissioner, Warwick Gately said that over the coming months, Victorians were likely to see a variety of electoral-related misinformation and disinformation campaigns.

“Misinformation is when people just get it wrong, which could be for a variety of reasons (including by accident),” Mr Gately said.

“Disinformation is when the facts are deliberately misrepresented,” he said.

“I will be taking steps to proactively combat misinformation and disinformation and making it easier for the public to sort fact from fiction this State election.”

Mr Gately urged Victorians to become more cautious about sharing what may be mis- or disinformation related to the upcoming election.

He said it was important to understand who was distributing or sharing the material, and people could do this by asking themselves if the material was coming from a reliable source and whether it was current.

The Commissioner also encouraged people to check if the electoral campaign material was authorised.

“To protect the integrity of elections and discourage deliberate, anonymous attempts to affect the way people vote, laws are in place to ensure that whoever publishes electoral campaign material must authorise it,” Mr Gately said.

“This means that the person who publishes the material must add their name and address to it,” he said.

“This is not an attempt to silence anyone or dissuade free speech, but it’s my responsibility as the State’s independent election umpire to ensure transparency about the source of the material.”

Mr Gately said anyone unsure of content about the election process should check the authorisation statement and then check the VEC’s website as the source of truth.

However, he said it was important to understand that the VEC was not the “arbiter of truth in political advertising”.

“The health of our democracy is everyone’s responsibility,” the Commissioner said.

“Please be discerning with the election campaign material being presented over the next few months, and take active steps to sort fact from fiction.”

Further information on misinformation/disinformation can be accessed at this PS News link and on election material authorisation requirements at this link.

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