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Wed Jun 13, 2018, 07:44 PM

Misinformation Is Shaping the Colombian Election


In Colombia, a cohort of less-than-reputable sources say that, if elected, leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, will force families to share homes larger than 65 square metres. They also say that Iván Duque, the right-wing candidate and favourite to win the presidency, is in cahoots with senior voting officials to rig the election. They say he will raise the pension age and impose a tax on motorcycles.

These examples of fake news and misinformation have been circulated heavily among the Colombian public in the run-up to the country’s elections. The historic presidential vote — the first since a 2016 peace deal was signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — has been hugely divisive. Centrist hopefuls have fallen by the wayside, leaving the most bitterly opposed candidates, Duque and Petro, to fight it out in the second round of voting on June 17.

Like other recent votes elsewhere in the world, the campaign has been hugely shaped by social media and the proliferation of fake news, misinformation and online aggression. The rise of technology and its impact on the democratic process is believed to have been hugely influential — and damaging.

Many Colombians, knowingly or not, have come across election-related fake news and misinformation on some kind of social media platform, be it Twitter, Facebook or the messaging service WhatsApp. And, as occurred in 2016 in the Brexit referendum and the American election, Colombia has become deeply polarized, which some experts put down to the influence of technology.


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