Studies suggest that the growing fake news phenomenon does not alter news consumption. Thus, establishing and promoting EMBs as the trusted source of election information weakens the ability of fake news promoters to have an impact. It also gives voters confidence in the integrity of the election process.
The following are recommendations from election researchers and experts for EMBs when structuring their own communications protocol:
Update your Election Crisis Communication Plan at least once a year. This way, you will stay current with your messages, methods, materials and changing circumstances.
Provide consistent, transparent and secure experiences for citizens.
Support partnerships between social networks and fact-checkers during election periods. These platforms can help in addressing and countering the spread of false information.
Encourage communication and collaboration with other voting jurisdictions before and during an election. Good coordination facilitates the fight against false information.
When addressing fake news, draw attention to hard news and reliable facts. In the face of well-sourced material and facts, fake news tends to fade away.
Support efforts to improve the assessment of the quality of information sources, through education and training.
This guide is intended to provide Election Management Bodies an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to address a communication crisis driven by fake news. Providing fact-checked data and stories at the right time and through the right channel will go a long way in minimizing the negative impact of fake news. In doing so, authorities will increase trust in the election process and offer peace of mind to voters, candidates, observers and the media. However, this handbook is simply a collection of industry best practices and recommendations from experts, and should in no way be construed as legal council. Your organization should only seek and accept legal guidance from a lawyer who is licensed to practice in your state.
A crisis communications management approach recognizes the urgency of engaging quickly and forcefully in order to curtail the effects of false information, and to provide fact-based clarity to individuals who have been the targets of disinformation.
FACT: Leading up to the 2016 US presidential election, the 20 most popular fake news stories received more shares, reactions and comments (8.7 million engagements) than the most popular 20 real news stories (7.3 million engagements).