Liberians will go to the polls in October this year. The outcome of the polls will depend on how the media as one of the key actors will play its role to ensure a transparent, inclusive, and peaceful process. Disinformation, misinformation and hate speech, on the other hand can undermine the integrity of elections, their outcomes, and the role of the media.
This is why the Liberian media, with its unique and critical role will have to do all it can to promote a credible process. To arrive at this, the United Nations Development Program, through its Liberia Election Support Project (LESP) is supporting Local Voices Liberia (LVL), a media organization, to strengthen and expand its fact checking capacity to mitigate the spread of disinformation, misinformation and hate speech.
As part of the support, a fact checking system was launched on March 14 at the Royal Grad Hotel in Monrovia.
The iVerify System will be used by fact checkers at LVL to track and fact check information that might be misleading or problematic.
The system will also allow for members of the public to make request for fact checking of information that they want to verify.
This will help mitigate potential election disinformation, misinformation and hate speech before, during and after this year’s elections.
The iVerify System is UNDP’s automated fact-checking tool that can be used to identify false information and prevent and mitigate its spread.
UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative Louis Kuukpen, speaking at the occasion, praised the UNDP and Local Voices Liberia’s team for the achievement noting that the iverify tool has a huge potential to help Liberia strengthen the integrity of the electoral processes and control bad reportage that may undermine the fragile peace and stability the country enjoys.
Mr. Kuukpen furthered that the UNDP and its partners (The Embassies of Sweden and Ireland in Liberia) are supporting the iVerify system, led by the EC-UNDP Taskforce on electoral processes, to enhance the capacity of Local Voices Liberia in contributing to safeguarding the information integrity in the country.
He mentioned that the integrity of information is critical leading to the 2023 elections, adding, “Information, they say is powerful, it is a powerful tool that can support elections and election institutions, but it can also undermine them.”
According to him, the confidence in electoral institutions and processes is decreasing globally owing to the rapidly spread rumors, putting electoral institutions into the positions of fire fighters often finding themselves fighting the fires of disinformation and misinformation in quest for a greater electoral integrity.
The UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative has, meanwhile, called for a collective responsibility to utilize the platform for its intended purpose.
Also remarking at the occasion, the representatives from the Embassies of Sweden and Ireland as well as National Elections Commission lauded the UNDP and Local Voices Liberia for the collaboration to ensure the availability of the iVerify platform ahead of the crucial October elections.
NEC’s Deputy Executive Director for Administration commenting on the effect of consuming wrong information during electoral processes said the commission has spent lot of time and resources trying to get out of the community of misinformation when it should be spending “quality time to inform the Liberian people about the process”.
Said Mr. Samuel Cole: “Some very heavy voices” in the media told the public “that the National Identification Card is a primary requirement for the voter registration,” something he noted “went as far as into the local market, and to take that out of the community, the commission has to spent lot of time and resources to do.”
He said because the NEC is aware that “these vices will interplay in the 2023 electoral process, it has taken concrete actions and has endeavor to found strategic partnerships”, adding that the NEC had improved collaborations with Internews to ensure that misinformation, disinformation and hate speech can be mitigated during the electoral processes.
Local Voices Liberia Executive Director, Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, also speaking at the program lauded the collaborative efforts of the UNDP and the donor to enhance his organization’s capacity to do more fact checking and called on other partners to support the organization’s activities to augment its performance. .