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Disinformation and interference during the elections

A hand inserts a ballot form into a ballot box.
On June 9, 2024, the Belgian federal and regional elections will take place. On the same day, you can also vote for the European Parliament. Additionally, a few months later, on October 13, 2024, local and provincial elections will be held.

Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. It is therefore crucial that they proceed smoothly, accurately, transparently, and democratically. In Belgium, the organization of elections, the voting machines, and the vote counting process are well secured. Unfortunately, election preparations and the elections themselves are often the target of interference and disinformation campaigns set up by domestic and foreign actors. There is a high probability that in the coming weeks and months, a lot of incorrect and misleading information will be disseminated via (social) media. The government urges everyone to remain critical and vigilant.

Disinformation: a potential danger to our democracy

Disinformation is a collective term for all forms of false, incorrect, or misleading information deliberately created and spread with the intention of influencing opinions or behavior, making money, or harming society by inciting division within our society or undermining our democracy. Countries (governments), lobby groups, certain organizations, as well as individuals, spread disinformation to serve their own agendas.

In the context of elections, such actors do not necessarily aim to make voters believe in an alternative truth, but rather to sow doubt among the population, making it difficult to distinguish between correct and incorrect information and between facts and opinions. This can lead to instability and further division within our society. Furthermore, misleading information can also be spread to cast doubt on the legitimacy, safety, and reliability of the voting process and technical systems.

Disinformation and other forms and techniques of influence pose a potential danger to our democracy. In several recent elections abroad, there is strong evidence that certain actors (including individuals, groups, lobby groups, and even states) have attempted to influence the voting process. We cannot rule out the possibility that certain actors may also attempt to influence elections in our country. Therefore, it is important that we are aware of this potential danger and make ourselves resilient against it, both as a government and as a society.

What techniques are used ?

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Modern technologies and artificial intelligence can be deployed and facilitate phishing attempts, cybercrime, and information manipulation. Consider, for example, deepfakes, which are audio and video clips manipulated or altered via artificial intelligence. This technology allows the creation of videos in which people say or do things they have never actually said or done. These technologies blend created/AI-generated information with facts, and enable automated accounts used for networks of fake followers, manipulated videos, or targeted advertising. Social media have a significant impact here, as they are the primary source of news for many people, where they read, view, and share.


Moreover, social media platforms use certain algorithms to reach voters and spread campaign messages. These algorithms create a kind of bubble of information that confirms your worldview and beliefs, thus preventing you from being challenged to be critical and to question your own ideas.


Additionally, there is an increase in social bots, which are fake accounts on social media posing as real people. These bots can exert influence by spreading hateful language to incite people or influence public opinion. Hashtags can also be created that in reality only represent the opinion of very few people but are shared by a large number of bots, creating the illusion that many people share this opinion. What is more, internet trolls remain a prevalent phenomenon. This terms refers to the phenomenon whereby real people sow discord on social media and try to frustrate and anger certain groups of people.

Human actors

However, disinformation is certainly not only spread through technology. Individuals or influencers with a certain agenda, lobby groups, organizations, etc., can deliberately send out incorrect or out-of-context information to the world, with or without the aid of technological means. In this way, they try to steer a particular agenda.

Some videos explaining the techniques

The European Parliament’s communication team created a series of videos in which they explain the most commonly used tactics and give tips to spot and avoid them. You can watch the videos here.

What can you do yourself?

It is crucial to be aware of the various possible influencing practices and techniques and to always approach information critically. When seeking information, rely primarily on reliable, official channels, such as government websites or major news media, and be cautious about the information you read and share on social media.

On our page on disinformation you will find tips on how to recognize disinformation and how to better protect yourself against it.

When reading an article or post, you can ask yourself some questions:

  • Who is the author ?
  • When was the message or article written and shared?
  • What sources does the author rely on? Are the sources credible?
  • What is the purpose of the article or message?
  • Can I find the same information in other sources?
  • Does the text have a peculiar form?
    • Is the text full of spelling mistakes, exclamation marks, or capital letters
    • Is the title very exaggerated or misleading?

Also, take a look at our fact-checking page to learn how to conduct your own fact-check.

On the website of Mediawijs (the Flemish Knowledge Center for Digital and Media Literacy of the Flemish government and imec vzw), you will find a clear poster with 10 questions to help you identify reliable sources and arm yourself against disinformation.

By playing the serious games Bad NewsHarmony Square and Cat Park (all developed by, among others, the University of Cambridge and DROG and Tilt Studio, two Dutch organizations working against the spread of disinformation), you will discover how political disinformation is spread on social media.

Idoubt.eu, a campaign within the EDMO BELUX project (a cross-community, multilingual collaboration between experts from academia, civil society, the media, and media literacy), offers tools to bring certainty to doubts. You will find tips on how to search online effectively, who to seek advice from, or who to talk to about your doubts.

EDMO created the campaign #BeElectionSmart to support citizens in finding reliable election information and recognising false or manipulative content ahead of the 2024 European Parliament Elections. Visit the website here to discover the practical tips.

Are you a parent or teacher, and would you like to discuss this topic with your children or students? Then take a look at our page with educational material on disinformation and media literacy.

What are the authorities doing?

In Belgium, the General Directorate for Identity and Civil Affairs (ADIB / DGIAC) of the FPS Interior is responsible for organizing federal, regional, and European elections. Before, during, and after, the FPS Interior takes various measures to ensure the safety and transparency of the elections.

The authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that the elections run smoothly, correctly, and democratically. This involves a lot of preparatory work leading up to the elections. For example, a risk analysis is conducted focusing on varying aspects, including technical risks, procedural risks, and cyber risks. A similar analysis is also conducted for disinformation. Based on this analysis, the various services involved determine how they will respond in case of different scenarios.

The National Crisis Center, together with its partners, monitors which false messages or misleading information circulates in our country. If necessary, we will also make the population aware of this by clearly communicating about it on our channels.

Moreover, on the European level, The European Commission is strengthening its strategic communication in response to disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference targeting EU policies. Read more about how the EU and Member States are tackling disinformation and information manipulation on this page.

The EU countries and EU institutions have several measures in place to prevent malign interference, disinformation, cyberattacks and data breaches during the European elections. More information about these measures here

Interesting websites

  • The General Directorate for Identity and Civil affairs (ADIB / DGIAC) created a specific website for the elections (available in Dutch, French and German). You can visit this website for all your questions about the elections.
  • Want to know more about the European elections? The European Parliament developed a specific website on the European elections, where you'll find answers to all your questions.
  • In addition, the European Parliament also developed a helpful sheet with tips to help you spot false informationHow to spot when news is fake (europa.eu) 
  • On the Mediawijs website, you can find a lot about misinformation and related topics. They also have a whole webpage about elections in a digital society (only available in Dutch). Additionally, you'll find the lesson package "Elections in the Classroom" for students in the second and third grades of secondary education (only available in Dutch). This package consists of four themes with accompanying methodology and EDUbox.
  • EDMO BELUX is a research hub that monitors disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg by bringing together international experts from the fields of academia, civil society, media and journalism, fact-checking, and media literacy. On their website you will find the hub’s latest fact checks, investigative reports, academic research, media literacy materials.
  • The independent non-profit organization, EU DisinfoLab, gathers knowledge and expertise on disinformation in Europe. On their website, they share interesting publications and tips to detect and deal with disinformation.
  • WAT WAT provides information tailored to young people on various topics, including elections (only available in Dutch).
  • Young people who are voting for the first time in 2024 can find everything they need to know on the website: 't Is aan u (only in Dutch).
  • The Belgian State Security (VSSE) and the Centre for Cybersecurity Belgium (CCB) have developed a brochure "Stay safe online during the elections" for political parties and their candidates.