Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta will be beefing up their protections against misinformation in lead up to this year’s Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum.
The tech giant has announced it will boost funding to fact checkers to monitor misinformation, activate global teams to identify “threats” to the referendum, and establishing a partnership with ReachOut for mental health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Meta Australia’s Director of Public Policy, Mia Garlick, has told the Guardian Australia, Meta will be working with the federal government to assure a fair referendum.
“We are also coordinating with the government’s election integrity assurance taskforce and security agencies in the lead-up to the referendum.”
Ms Garlick also says that Meta has been planning this for a long time.
“Meta has been preparing for this year’s voice to parliament referendum for a long time, leaning into expertise from previous elections…
Building off our experience with the marriage equality postal survey and elections, unfortunately when a particular group is the focus of debate, vulnerable groups can feel more vulnerable.”
The strategy comes after a slew of misinformation around the voice has already been published.
The Director of RMIT’s Fact lab Russell Skelton says there has been a noticeable amount of misinformation released about the voice already.
“The biggest takeaway is the amount of misinformation that is already spreading so early on.
I think it’s quite mischievous and very incorrect information being spread on social media,” he said.
Mr Skelton points to claims of electronic vote rigging and the referendum ending “private land ownership in Australia as we know it” as some standouts.
He says a majority of incorrect claims so far have been against the Voice.
“What’s interesting is there hasn’t been a lot of claims in favour of the Voice campaign that we’ve been able to check because not many have been made,” he said.
RIMT’s Chief of Staff Sushi Das says users need to be aware of what they read online.
“There is definitely an organised campaign around spreading disinformation about the voice.”
“I think people need to be aware that this is happening it’s not just people innocently sharing incorrect stuff,” she said.
Ms Das has three tips for people to keep in mind.
These include making sure the content is coming from a reputable source, and checking the evidence their using to back up their claims.
Users should also be careful not to inherently trust information that is shared by friends and families
“Just because someone you like or trust sent it to you it doesn’t mean its accurate,” she said.
She says if the content is critical of factchecking websites users should question the reasoning behind it.
“Ask yourself why they might be doing that.
It’s because they don’t want the accurate information that we publish to undermine the disinformation narrative that they are trying to spread.”