January 12 2022, 15:37 pm

Report Examines Election Disinformation in the US, Brazil and France

The Cen­ter for Democ­ra­cy & Tech­nol­o­gy, a US think tank, and the Kon­rad Ade­nauer Stiftung, a Ger­man think tank, have recent­ly pub­lished a study com­par­ing elec­tion dis­in­for­ma­tion in the US, Brazil, and France. The study argues that in each coun­try, dis­in­for­ma­tion spreads along a num­ber of vec­tors: for­eign actors, domes­tic politi­cians, social media users, and the tra­di­tion­al media. Accord­ing to the study’s exec­u­tive summary:

Decem­ber 2021 In 2016, Russ­ian hack­ers released hacked emails from Demo­c­ra­t­ic offi­cials, rock­ing the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. In 2017, a sim­i­lar hack-and-leak oper­a­tion released thou­sands of doc­u­ments on Emmanuel Macron, just hours before the start of the French elec­tion peri­od media black­out. In 2018, while Brazil­ians were vot­ing for pres­i­dent, Jair Bolsonaro’s son cir­cu­lat­ed a mis­lead­ing video that false­ly implied that vot­ing machines were con­vert­ing votes from Bol­sonaro to his rival. The day after the 2020 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, dri­ven by false claims about felt-tip mark­ers (“Sharpies”) used to mark bal­lots, pro­test­ers descend­ed on an elec­tion office in Ari­zona wav­ing markers—and guns. Around the world, elec­tion disinformation—false or mis­lead­ing infor­ma­tion about elec­toral process­es, elec­tion out­comes, polit­i­cal par­ties, polit­i­cal can­di­dates, and the per­ceived legit­i­ma­cy of elec­tion officials—appears to be tak­ing hold. In many coun­tries peo­ple are dis­sat­is­fied with how democ­ra­cy is work­ing. Less than half of peo­ple in the U.S., Brazil, and France report hav­ing con­fi­dence in their nation­al gov­ern­ment. And less than half believe that votes in their coun­tries are count­ed fair­ly “very often.” (In Brazil, that num­ber has dropped from 21% in 2014 to just 14% in 2018.) Low lev­els of trust in democ­ra­cy and in gov­ern­ment can cre­ate a vicious cycle when com­bined with elec­tion dis­in­for­ma­tion. For exam­ple, low trust may increase recep­tive­ness to elec­tion dis­in­for­ma­tion, which in turn may fur­ther reduce trust in democ­ra­cy. Research to under­stand this prob­lem, par­tic­u­lar­ly in an inter­na­tion­al con­text, is still nascent. This report exam­ines case stud­ies of elec­tion dis­in­for­ma­tion— and inter­ven­tions aimed at com­bat­ing disinformation—in the U.S., Brazil, and France.

Read the full study here.

In 2016 and 2017, respec­tive­ly, the US and French elec­tions were inter­fered with via hack-and-leak oper­a­tions. In the US, Rus­sia tar­get­ed Hillary Clin­ton and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty, while In France, the tar­get was Emmanuel Macron’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. The study argues that the impacts on the US elec­tions were sig­nif­i­cant but only min­i­mal on France.


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