Federal Election 2022: How the AEC Is Preparing to Combat Misinformation

Federal Election 2022: How the AEC Is Preparing to Combat Misinformation
2019 Federal Election. Image: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

As we head into the 2022 Federal Election, odds are you’ve noticed some misinformation or crazy predictions making the rounds – but fear not, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is onto it, debunking misinformation one myth at a time.

While the AEC been thinking about misinformation for years, on Tuesday it officially begun its campaign to help voters to ‘Stop and Consider‘ the messages they receive during this federal election.

The Stop and Consider campaign aims to help voters cut through misinformation, disinformation and spin.

“A lot of information is designed to make you feel an emotional reaction like shock, excitement or anger,” AEC commissioner Tom Rogers says.

How is the AEC responding to ‘fake news’?

Through this Stop and Consider campaign, the AEC is encouraging voters to think about three things when they encounter electoral communication:

  • Reliable: Is the information from a reliable source?
  • Current: When was it published?
  • Safe: Could it be a scam?

The AEC also launched a disinformation register earlier this year. The disinformation register, the AEC says, is basically a place where it debunks mistruths spread about Federal Election processes. Odds are that in the lead up to the Federal Election, this register is going to get chunky.

It behaves sort-of like an FAQ page where a ‘fake news’ myth is posted and the AEC places a large red ‘X’ next to the line if it is indeed misinformation. My favourite so far is the myth that pencil votes are erased once counting starts. Oh, you can definitely still vote if you haven’t received your full three jabs.

The AEC is also actively fighting the trolls. Over the past few weeks, the AEC has been going hard on Twitter, directly replying to claims surrounding the Australian electoral process. It’s not putting up with any election disinformation.

 

“The message here is simple: the AEC will not tolerate the spread of mis or disinformation about our electoral system, no matter the source,” Rogers says.

What are the dangers of misinformation?

Rogers said the agency has an ongoing fight against misleading and deceptive information about how elections are run.

“We’re not messing around,” he said.

“The Australian vote belongs to all Australians and there is freedom of political communication. However, if you spread incorrect information about the processes we run – deliberately or otherwise – we’ll correct you.”

According to Rogers (and look, it’s a no-brainer, really) false information about the Federal Election process that has operated in Australia for many years can do significant damage to public trust.

“Scrutiny is important but it must be well informed. Australian elections are too important to let these things go through to the keeper, especially when people aren’t acting in good faith,” he said.

The dangers of misinformation were highlighted by Rogers earlier this year when he briefed media on the upcoming election.

He said social media companies should commit to taking down unauthorised political material in agreed timeframes to combat misinformation in elections. But he also raised concern with Federal Election odds or predictions being made ahead of the polls.

Rogers warned that any misinformation about the result of the election “would be not only be disappointing [but] outrageous”, suggesting the AEC will take a hard line in the event of any baseless Trump-style claims of a stolen election, too.

It isn’t just the AEC, however, with many other government entities involved in ensuring a safe and fair election.

Changes to voting in the 2022 Federal Election due to COVID-19

Voting can be done in-person on election day, May 21, at polling booths or through pre-polling and mail voting. It is compulsory for citizens over 18 to enrol to vote, so best get familiar with the options on how to have your say this year. If you can’t get to a polling place on election day you can vote at an early voting centre in Australia. A list of early voting centres will be available via the AEC’s website now that the election has been set for May 21. There’s also a checklist for eligibility to cast your Australian Federal Election vote early.

You can also apply for a postal vote to have your ballot papers sent to you in the mail. You can apply online via the AEC website, or by completing a postal vote application form available from AEC offices at election time. You can’t vote online, but if you are blind or have low vision you can cast your vote through the AEC’s telephone voting service. This will be open to those self-quarantining as a result of COVID-19, too.


We’ll keep updating this article as more information becomes available. The last update was made April 13, 2022.