26 September 2023

Rogers warns against referendum debunks

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The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has launched a new disinformation register to debunk mistruths being spread about referendum processes.

The Commissioner, Tom Rogers said the Referendum Disinformation Register was launched in recognition of the increasing public commentary about the proposed Voice to Parliament referendum, which will be the first federal referendum in nearly a quarter of a century.

“The message here is simple – the AEC will not tolerate the spread of mistruths about our referendum processes, no matter the source,” Mr Rogers said.

“While we’ll be active in communicating about referendum processes, it’s up to voters to stop and consider information they see, hear or read from ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns,” he said.

“We can’t and won’t play a role with campaign information beyond ensuring it is authorised, so people know the source.”

Mr Rogers said the Register would focus solely on harmful disinformation related to the process of conducting referendums.

He said citizens had the right to express views about democratic events that were a contest of ideas – “the AEC does not restrict those freedoms”.

“For the first time, the AEC’s disinformation register will also include a section to help readers identify the tactics used to spread electoral disinformation,” the Electoral Commissioner said.

“This follows recent research that indicates that ‘prebunking’ can be an effective tool in helping citizens to reject disinformation when they encounter it.”

He said initial examples of disinformation regarding the Referendum process were unfortunately being seen already and were listed on the register.

“They range from the potential weaponising of procedural confusion to outrageous, and unfortunately predictable, accusations of impartiality,” Mr Rogers said.

The AEC’s a Referendum Disinformation Register can be accessed at this PS News link.

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