Google outlines measures it’s taking to ensure election integrity

  • With misinformation rife in the lead up to national elections across the globe, Google has explained what steps it is taking in countries like South Africa.
  • Google is ensuring access to accurate information is being made available via its Search, YouTube, and Ads platforms.
  • It is also working with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), and TikTok through a Framework of Cooperation.

Later this month South Africans will be heading to voting stations across the country in what is shaping up to be one of the most important national elections since 1994.

The 29th May date which has been set for voting will also prove critical given the impact that social media and misinformation has had in unduly influencing election integrity in other parts of the globe in recent years, which is why big tech companies are being looked at to ensure that election integrity remains intact.

To that end TikTok has already outlined what it plans to do, and now it is the turn of an even bigger company – Google.

“2024 is an important year for elections across the world, with many countries going into the polls to elect their leaders for the forthcoming years. South Africa will hold its 7th democratic elections on 29 May, in a year that marks the country’s 30th anniversary of democracy,” notes Abongile Mashele, head of Government Affairs and Public Policy at Google, in a release shared with Hypertext.

“In line with our commitment to helping organise the world’s information, making it universally accessible and useful, Google has undertaken a number of steps to support election integrity in South Africa by surfacing high quality information to voters, safeguarding our platforms from abuse and equipping campaigns with the best-in-class security tools and training. We’ll also do this work with an increased focus on the role artificial intelligence (AI) might play,” she adds.

In terms of the different Google platforms that will be used to ensure election integrity, the company has highlighted Search, YouTube, and Ads as three key focus areas to allow voters to access information that it accurate and fair.

“When people search for topics like ‘how to vote,’ they will find information about ID requirements, voting stations and more — linking to authoritative sources from our partners such as the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC),” confirms Mashele.

“During an election, voters across the country come to YouTube to get news and information from a diverse set of authoritative news sources. For example, when voters search for election-related topics, YouTube’s recommendation system prominently surfaces election content in search results, the homepage and the ‘watch next’ panel. At the same time, human reviewers and machine learning technology combine to detect, review and remove content that violates our policies,” she continues.

As for Ads, much like TikTok, Google is emphasising transparency and says that, “all advertisers who wish to run election ads in South Africa must complete an identity verification process and display an in-ad disclosure that clearly shows who paid for the ad.”

While these measures are indeed welcome, with only a few weeks to go before the national elections take place, it it unclear whether such steps were taken or focused upon in the previous months, especially as voters have likely made their made up as to which party they will be voting for this close to 29th May.

Either way it is good to see that Google and TikTok are taking the elections and any potential misinformation seriously, especially as they are both sources of news for South Africans. Here Google says it is, “working with industry players such as the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), and TikTok through a Framework of Cooperation, designed to protect and safeguard the integrity of the elections and fight against misinformation.”

“Google is funding a fact-checking coalition led by Africa Check with South African media which works together to fact-check claims made by political parties, provide voters with reliable, non-partisan information on key issues, and equip the public with the skills they need to identify election misinformation,” it adds.

With Google and TikTok laying out how they plan to ensure election integrity, it is awfully quiet over at X (formerly Twitter) on that front.

[Image – Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash]


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