Coalition-building against information pollution in the upcoming year of elections

November 8, 2023

This week, we are in Brussels for UNDP ’s Global Conference: Peaceful and Inclusive Elections in a Digital Age. Convening with colleagues to explore how technology can contribute to peaceful and inclusive elections worldwide.

Photo: UNDP

2024 is the year of elections, as over 2 billion people will cast their votes in more than 65 elections worldwide. This volume of elections, combined with the continued evolution of information pollution, underscores the urgency and importance of safeguarding information integrity around these critical democratic processes. Digital technologies are transforming how candidates, electoral organisers, and voters engage during elections. While online platforms and digital technologies can enhance political inclusion and provide space for underrepresented groups, it also poses a risk to electoral integrity. Through advanced tools, such as AI-generated deepfakes and bot networks, malicious actors can influence election outcomes and delegitimize the electoral process. 

Vulnerabilities are more pronounced in societies where media coverage and digital literacy is limited. With information pollution - the spread of false, misleading, manipulated and otherwise harmful information - being ever more present in our social media and messaging platforms, UNDP is committed to respond to this challenge of protecting the integrity of elections, both in our programming and in our engagement at the global level with electoral and information integrity stakeholders. 

UNDP has played a leading role in establishing the Action Coalition on Information Integrity in elections. The Action Coalition brings together stakeholders such as electoral assistance organizations, tech companies, government agencies, and civil society, to optimize the positive potential of digital technologies while minimizing harm. The Action Coalition published its first outcome paper earlier this year. The paper explores a range of programmatic options and presents three key recommendations: 

  1. Longer-term Interventions: To enhance resilience against information pollution, there is a need for longer-term and agile programmatic interventions. Interventions should focus on effective media and information literacy (MIL) programming, and capacity building for media and electoral management bodies. 
  2. Fact-Checking and Innovative Partnerships: Fact-checking remains a key tool in countering information pollution. However, it is essential to innovate and establish effective partnerships to further integrate emerging technological tools. Collaborative efforts with technology companies, civil society, and electoral support organizations can improve the effectiveness of fact-checking operations. 
  3. Engagement and Collaboration with Stakeholders: Coordination and partnerships among various stakeholders are crucial. Collaborations must address the challenges posed by information pollution through knowledge sharing and the discussion of best practices. By working together, new initiatives and innovative approaches can be developed to tackle information integrity issues effectively. 

As we build upon the successes of the Action Coalition on Information Integrity in Elections and our commitment to addressing the challenges of information integrity, the Action Coalition is set to reconvene on November 10, 2023. During this meeting, the Coalition will identify and consolidate collective concerns and recommendations for 2024, working on a forward-looking approach that anticipates the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Not only for 2024, but for the future of democratic processes globally.