Seminar: Elections and misinformation disorders

On September 7, 2023, the seminar “Elections and information disorders 2023” was held at the University of Palermo, co-organized jointly by CELE, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Citizen Info and Disinformation Observatory of the Complutense University of Madrid. The seminar included among its speakers specialists in communication, freedom of expression, media and electoral law from Argentina, Chile, Spain and Mexico, coming from the public sector, the private sector, academia and civil society.

The opening of the event was led by Fulvio Santarelli, dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Palermo, and Susanne Käss, Representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Argentina. For his part, Alberto Ricardo Dalla Via, President of the National Electoral Chamber, referred to the actions carried out by that court to deal with the problem of misinformation in the electoral context. He specifically referred to the issuance of Acodada 66/2018, the subscription of the Digital Ethical Commitment and the agreements entered into between the Chamber and social media platforms. This governance model to the Mexican It is one of the main mechanisms in use in Latin America to deal with disinformation.

The first panel was made up of Karina Kalpschtrej, deputy executive director of Poder Ciudadano, Eleonora Rabinovich, Head of Government Affairs & Public Policy at Google and Agustina Del Campo, director of CELE. The difficulties and challenges in the application of access to public information laws to political parties were addressed, as were the actions carried out by Google to collaborate with authorities and voters in the circulation and dissemination of official information and factual work. -checkers at election time, and the need to avoid the temptation to study the complex issue of disinformation as a whole and to address it more specifically, respectively.

The second panel, “Freedom of expression and freedom of the press in elections”, was made up of Daniel Dessein, journalist, lawyer, president of the Gaceta de Tucumán and of ADEPA (Association of Journalistic Entities of Argentina), Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte, researcher and Deputy Executive Director of CELE, and Eduardo Arriagada, journalist, academic at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and co-director of the Social Listening Lab of that University. The discussion revolved around the role of traditional media and new media in public conversation and the circulation of information, the contributions that journalism can make against information disorders, and the need to rebuild citizens' trust in the media.

The third panel, “Electoral legal framework, information guarantees and information disorders”, was made up of Hernán Gonçalves Figueiredo, Secretary of Judicial Action of the National Electoral Chamber of Argentina, Alberto Guevara Castro, General Director of Relations in charge of International Institutional Relations of the Mexican Electoral Tribunal (2017-2023), and Alejandro Tulio, National Electoral Director of Argentina (2001-2016). The speakers shared their experiences and the challenges faced in terms of disinformation from the Argentine and Mexican public sectors with regard to the organization and supervision of elections.

The fourth and final panel included the intervention of Rafael Rubio, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Complutense University and former member of the Venice Commission, and Delia Ferreira Rubio, Doctor in Law UCM and President of Transparency International. The speakers shared their critical reflections about the common errors in the definitions, diagnoses and regulatory solutions that are usually proposed to the issue of disinformation.

Misinformation continues to be a persistent concern throughout the West, with democracies appearing increasingly fragile in the face of various threats. While there are still many doubts regarding the effects of disinformation—which, as revealed at the seminar, persist—there is no doubt that disinformation impoverishes public debate. Actions linked to digital literacy and the training of central actors continue to be an inexpensive and efficient strategy. It is also the strategy that the IACHR recommended in its Guide to guarantee freedom of expression against deliberate disinformation in electoral contexts.

From CELE we want to take advantage of this space to thank the institutions co-organizing the seminar, and the panelists and attendees of the event.