How we could prevent disinformation on the eve of elections ANALYSIS

Specialists point out that, in the context of the four rounds of elections and the external security situation, the parties should direct their financial resources to combat disinformation.

Specialists draw attention to several necessary measures PHOTO Shutterstock

While experts point out that the danger of disinformation is getting worse as technology evolves, election campaign coordinators shrug their shoulders, saying that the main method of combating it is people's ability to discern.

Regarding the issue of disinformation, attention has been drawn several times also at the European level, where there have been several alarm signals regarding the involvement of external actors.

On the eve of the campaigns for four consecutive elections in Romania, the leaders of the main ruling parties do not seem to have found the solutions to combat disinformation yet. Mihai Tudose (PSD), the campaign leader for the European Parliament, explained that the solution is to focus on the party's own communication.

“You can not do anything. If you're going to respond to everyone saying it's not true, you're stuck on this thing. We will run our campaign, explain what we do and let the world discern”said the MEP.

The coordinator of the local campaign of the liberals, Florin Roman, explained that within the party there is a team that deals with the problem of misinformation on the Internet.

What the specialists say

Professor Dumitru Borțun pointed out that the documentation of the electorate is also important, but also a greater attention to the source of the information“because it might be from the opposing team, and then it's clear that it has a derogatory content.”

“It has to be seen if the data matches each other, because many times there are contradictions and people don't notice. There are contradictory messages”, Dumitru Borțun also pointed out, showing that the greatest danger is in the parliamentary elections, where the vote is based on party lists. “In the presidential election, it's different, you know the person, you see him, you hear what he says, how he poses the problem, how he behaves, how he looks, there are several things that help you make an impression as accurate as possible, close to reality. It is more difficult to misinform on a natural person, because there are some biographical data of the person in question, you know what it is about, you can check it. Here, the margin of manipulation is smaller, but at games it is enormously large”the expert explained.

The specialist claims that, to combat the phenomenon, the parties should allocate financial resources. “Within the electoral staff, I would create a special team that would always give replies, defuse fake news“, pointing out that the method of disproving false information “it is double-edgedi”. “Many times, you bring to light something that the reader did not know or had not heard, but hears on the occasion of the denial, but it is better to deny than to remain silent like the dead in a doll and make the reader believe that something is true”claims Dumitru Borțun.

Political analyst Radu Delicote drew attention that “elections can be lost and won from a fake news or a strategically executed deepfake”, specifying that the effect of disinformation also lies in informing the electorate. “But let's be realistic, we don't have this exercise in our daily access to information. Statistically, citizens of Central and Eastern European countries check about 20% of the news when they read it. So we are fully, concretely and unequivocally exposed to this danger”explained the analyst.

“The most useful tool used today are fake profiles that spread copied comments designed to fool the algorithms. Social media today, as it is built, is very acidic, it is very prone to fake news, disinformation and brings out only one thing: the user's emotions, his ego. However, in this context, we already see a very nice recipe, with tight quotation marks, of a weapon that, if you know the nuts and bolts, becomes a very dangerous weapon. We are in a continuous, perpetual campaign. The media consumer is constantly exposed to political messages, the political agenda has become the public agenda and vice versa. So, in short, we are not only vulnerable in the campaign, we are constantly vulnerable, in the absence of mechanisms“, explained Delicote.

According to the expert, the main course of action of the current political leaders must focus on regulation. “Working on a legislative package to help develop effective, good and healthy monitoring tools is the first solution. But a flower will not make spring, and this spring in social media still has a long way to go before it consistently appears and has positive effects. At the moment, we only have ideas and mechanisms reactive to the actual situation, not proactive at all. Social media networks will promote and challenge any type of information as long as they can cash in on it, and content creators are just riding this wave“, the analyst also pointed out.

Former presidential adviser Valeriu Turcan explained that the main ways of action against disinformation consist in Educating the parties “to respond professionally when faced with something like this and by strengthening the classic press, the big media institutions, which exercise the verification of information from several sources”.

The worst enemy of the press is social media, where fact-checking is never practiced and where all activists, political or otherwise, pose as journalists. Social media also provides the ideal ground for the contagion of misinformation. The time has come for the press to reclaim its place in society lost in recent years. Perhaps the parties should also accept that it is preferable to deal with real journalists, with names, bulletins and addresses, who can sometimes be wrong, but who verify the information, than with a plethora of platforms and online identities that can surprise you by unsuspecting when you least expect it“, the former presidential adviser also pointed out, showing that the presence of disinformation is given by the stakes of an election. “The higher the stakes of an election, the more money will be put into disinformation. The presidential and parliamentary elections will be the culmination of disinformation in 2024 at least”concluded Valeriu Turcan.