Guidelines are important when social media platforms are used in elections, says Mashatile

Deputy President Paul Mashatile said social media platforms used in elections must foster a level playing field for all candidates and political parties.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 29, 2024


Deputy President Paul Mashatile said while it is important to reap the benefits of digital and social media in electoral processes, it was just as crucial to investigate ways to mitigate the negative scenarios that could jeopardise the credibility of elections.

Mashatile spoke on Tuesday at a socialisation workshop held by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) in Johannesburg.

He said the timing of the continent-wide socialisation programme coincided with heightened election activity around the continent, with over 20 AU member states, including South Africa, expected to hold elections in 2024.

“The epoch-making development and official adoption of the principles and guidelines by the continental election management bodies (EMB) has prompted EMBs to use digital and social media in election management.

“The principles and guidelines are a comprehensive framework for the EMBs and electoral stakeholders on how best to interface with digital and social media before, during, and after elections,” Mashatile said.

He said in the fast-paced digital world of today, there was a need to recognise the important role that social media plays in shaping people’s opinions and establishing the narratives propelled during elections.

“As we witness the increasing use of these platforms in political campaigns, it is imperative that we establish clear principles and guidelines to ensure a fair, transparent, and inclusive electoral process.

“Moreover, it is critical to utilise these social media platforms in a constructive manner to inform and disseminate positive messages regarding elections, with a particular focus on the youth of Africa, who, like elsewhere, are gaining significant traction on platforms such as X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and others.”

Mashatile said it was crucial to use these principles and guidelines to emphasise the importance of promoting online integrity, safeguarding against misinformation and disinformation, protecting privacy and data security, and fostering a level playing field for all candidates and political parties.

“Through adherence to these principles, we will be able to safeguard the values of democracy through free and fair elections and allow voters to make choices.”

The Mercury