Panama faces electoral campaign with new rules and networks as the great challenge

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  • Wed, 02/27/2019 - 17:12
Panama faces electoral campaign with new rules and networks as the great challenge
  • @TReporta

Fabio Agrana

Panama is on the verge of a new campaign for May general elections that reduces the period of proselytizing to 60 days and controls its spending, but whose great challenge is the dynamics of social networks and the infamous fake news, acknowledged to Acan-Efe the electoral magistrate, Alfredo Juncá.

The Electoral Tribunal of Panama knows that the country does not escape a global reality: it uses accounts and false news to which it is attributed great influence and which are the center of debates and unpublished investigations, including judicial ones.

Juncá, one of the three main magistrates of the electoral body, highlighted the benefits of the new electoral rules, which include a Digital Media Unit, but admitted that in terms of social networks the rules of the Electoral Code "are very rigid".

"We need a procedure that changes at the same speed that social networks change, something that we can activate the mechanisms of control and protection of the electoral process as soon as we need it, at the speed we need it", Juncá said.

This matter, in his opinion, "has to go to review in the next electoral reform", because now and also later it will constitute "the great challenge" of the governing body of elections, which already has a long way in search of mechanisms to protect the process in which more than 2.7 million Panamanians are called to the polls on May 5.

The Court has established "a strong relationship" with Facebook and Twitter, among others, "that can suspend content violating the electoral rule" in force in Panama, he said.

"For more than a year we have a solid relationship with all of exchange and cooperation, and that is the way we have been able to reach 83% of suspensions of content that are harmful to the electoral process", said the magistrate.

Google has given the Court, like Twitter and Facebook, training in addressing citizen complaints, and Panama is the first Spanish-speaking country to offer a real-time solution for citizens to make them as part of the iniciayive "Court with you", which is an application.

In addition, the "Digital Media Unit is successfully monitoring the networks randomly to be able to look for those warning signs for the process that is the spreading of false news, use of 'call center' or call centers of false accounts or 'bots' or repetition algorithms "to try to influence the electorate, said Juncá.

Even so, the magistrate acknowledged that in terms of social networks "there is no human way to prevent someone from launching a false news or using a false account, there is no way to do it".

But the reforms that apply to the process next May, when Panamanians will elect the new president and vice president, deputies, mayors, corregimiento representatives and councilors, go beyond the networks and establish new responsibilities for the Tribunal, such as the organization and financing of primary elections held by political parties.

Also the incorporation of ceilings in the electoral expenses of the candidates and the restriction to only 2 months of electoral campaign, which in the past elections of 2014 lasted a year.

Juncá said these changes seek "to help with the balance and to avoid that those people who have more money or who are more popular than others, have better possibilities of being able to aspire to a position of popular election".

The proselytizing campaign in Panama will officially begin next March 4, in full carnivals, the most popular celebration in the country.



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