Safeguarding the Legitimacy of Elections: The
Kofi Annan Commission Launches Final Report
Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age puts forward urgent recommendations to governments and internet platforms to safeguard the legitimacy of elections.
The Kofi Annan Commission calls for urgent action by governments, business and civil society to protect democracy from digital threats. The final report of the Commission sets out actionable recommendations in five major areas: polarization, hate speech, disinformation, political advertising and foreign interference.
This report comes at an inflection point; approximately 80 elections will be held in 2020 and if action is not taken, the integrity of these elections and the legitimacy of the outcome may be called into question.
The report is the culmination of the Commission’s work over the last year, which included extensive consultations in every continent. Laura Chinchilla, Chair of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age, explained: “Much of global attention has been on digital threats and foreign manipulation of elections afflicting Western countries. For the first time, we take a particular look at the Global South, where new democracies or those in transition are particularly vulnerable to digital threats but where promising democratic developments are also taking place.”
Based on these, and other key findings, the Commission recommends measures to strengthen norms and build capacity, with specific actions by public authorities and internet platforms, including:
- Governments should establish an international convention regulating cross-border engagement to distinguish legitimate electoral assistance from illicit or unlawful interventions.
- Countries must adapt their political advertising regulations to the online environment. In particular, the definition of political advertising should be a matter of law, defined by governments, and not left up to digital platforms.
- Industry, governments and civil society actors concerned about the integrity of elections should create a global code of conduct defining the role of political consultancies and vendors of election equipment.
- The Commission calls on governments to compel digital platforms to release their data to independent researchers. Without this critical information, a comprehensive assessment of the impact of technology on democracy cannot be completed and will continue to pose threats to the democratic process.
- Social media platforms should create a coalition to address digital threats to democracy, as they have done collaboratively to address terrorism or child exploitation.
Alan Doss, President of the Kofi Annan Foundation added:
“Mr Annan cared deeply about democracy and established this Commission to ensure that the power of digital technologies could be harnessed to empower and engage citizens. The Commission was his last major policy initiative and is a fitting testament to his legacy as a defender of the right of people to have a say in how they are governed, and by whom.”
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