The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has asked social media platforms to remove posts casting doubt on the security of Australia’s postal voting system in order to quash misinformation in the lead-up to the federal election.
Evan Ekin-Smyth, the director of media and digital engagement for the independent body, told Crikey that the AEC has as recently as last week asked the social media giants to remove misleading social media posts.
The posts are importing conspiracy theories from Trump supporters in the United States. One of the persistent myths relates to electronic voting machines and Australia installing them to rig election outcomes. The AEC debunked those assertions on Twitter on multiple occasions and during a recent Senate estimates committee hearing.
Ekin-Smyth said that the electoral commission has established close links with social media companies such as Twitter, which meant misinformation in posts could be dealt with expeditiously.
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“In the last couple of days we have made referrals to social media organisations about content spread suggesting that postal voting is not a secure means of voting,” Ekin-Smyth said. “Again, a bit of a lift-out from the US election where people talk about what they refer to over there as mail-in votes.”
The AEC contacted Meta and Google in order to get that content removed as soon as possible.
“We’ve received action on some of that. I think Twitter took it down within three hours off the back of our referral and Meta has taken action as well,” Ekin-Smyth said.
It is not just conspiracy theorists causing the communications team at the electoral commission grief: repeated allegations of bias for either the government or the opposition frustrate the electoral commission’s team.
“We take our political neutrality seriously,” Ekin-Smyth said. “It is disheartening when you see claims of bias of the AEC without any foundation whatsoever because we’ve got so many, we’ve got hundreds of people across the organisation who are just working hard day in, day out to create a fair electoral system. It doesn’t go down well.”
People who have been blocked by the AEC on Twitter have made no secret about the fact they have been stopped from seeing the commission’s feed on the platform. Ekin-Smyth said blocking is very rare.
“We will only take that action if it is absolutely required and we do not do it often,” Ekin-Smyth said.