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IEC's global conference focuses on potential pitfalls of social media

Experts were expected to address the influence of fake news on election integrity, amongst other things.

IEC is hosting a global conference on the potential pitfalls of social media. Picture: @ShalestoneGov/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is on Wednesday hosting a global conference on the potential pitfalls of social media.

Experts were expected to address the influence of fake news on election integrity, amongst other things.

Experts said micro-targeting was one of the ways that fake news manufacturers used to exploit ideological and cultural differences by narrowing their focus to specific groups and even individuals

The Institute for Security Studies’ Karen Allen said this targeting was often used to disseminate hate speech and drive discrimination.

“We've seen that in the 2016 US election campaign with the news about Russian attempts to influence the race that was particularly targeting African American voters,” Allen said.

Allen said South Africa was not spared as fake news pieces were distributed during last year’s general elections.

“My colleague Avani Singh, from ALT Advisory, has documented extensively disinformation campaigns in last year's presidential election causing confusion about where to vote for instance [and] allegations that voting stations have closed down,” she said.

IEC officials said the platform was not about government regulation, but geared towards harnessing the good uses of social media and highlighting pitfalls that should be managed.