Disinformation Project: Parties can be fined R200k for spreading disinformation

The Disinformation Project said that it would be monitoring communications from political parties using technological tools and data science for any disinformation that was in violation of the IEC Code of Conduct.

FILE: Voting station presiding officer supervising voters as they arrive at a voting station to vote in the by-elections in Ward 30, at Rantailane Secondary School in Ga-Rankuwa on 19 May, 2021. Picture: Boikhutso Ntsoko/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As the election campaign season kicks into full gear in the run-up to the local government polls, parties were warned against spreading disinformation and could face fines of up to R200,000.

This is the warning communicated by the Disinformation Project, which was recently formed to tackle misinformation and disinformation in the 1 November polls.

The Disinformation Project said that it would be monitoring communications from political parties using technological tools and data science for any disinformation that was in violation of the IEC Code of Conduct.

It added that any instances of disinformation detected would be reported to the Electoral Court.

Parties that violated the IEC Code Of Conduct could be penalised in any of the following ways:
- be fined up to R200 000.
- have to give up the party's election deposit.
- be stopped from working in an area.
- have their votes in an area cancelled.
- can have their party registration cancelled.

"We hope that political parties will see our initiative as a deterrent and an opportunity to reflect on how they communicate with voters," said Phumzile Van Damme, the Disinformation Project's coordinator.

“Disinformation contributed to billions of rands in the destruction of property and to the loss of over 300 lives in July 2021. Politicians must not use their words recklessly and endanger lives. We ask South Africans to join us and stand united against those who use disinformation to spread hatred on the grounds of race, nationality and incite violence in the quest for power.”

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