Electoral Management of Digital Campaigns and Disinformation in East and Southeast Asia

Tan, Netina
Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy

Election interference is a problem in digitized elections around the world. Given East and Southeast Asia's dense social network, electoral integrity is a growing concern. Yet, few studies focus on this region's regulatory approaches to data-driven campaigns or disinformation threat. This article addresses this by proposing an electoral management digital readiness (EMDR) index to compare the readiness of the ten electoral management bodies (EMBs) in East and Southeast Asia to respond to digital disruptions. The aim is to take stock of the new and amended laws and provide a composite index based on four key criteria, namely, the (1) type of electoral management model; (2) presence of specific or new regulations governing online campaign and disinformation; (3) confidence in the rule of law; and (4) technological readiness of the digital economy. Based on available legal statutes and cross-country indicators, this study finds the EMBs in Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand to have a high level of digital readiness; Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia to have a medium level; and Cambodia and Myanmar to have a low level. A key finding is that a multi-pronged regulatory approach that involves different stakeholders is necessary to improve the timeliness of fact-checking and removal of malicious content, rather than relying on state-led initiatives to improve online electoral governance.