IGF 2019 WS #157 New Methods for Social Media Monitoring during Election

Organizer 1: Rafael Schmuziger Goldzweig, Democracy Reporting International
Organizer 2: Pouye Raphael, Supporting Democracy

Speaker 1: Ramali Khadeja, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 2: Rafael Schmuziger Goldzweig, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Giovanna Maiola, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

What are the existing methodologies to usefully monitor political campaigns ahead of elections?
How much has social media monitoring been able to assess the integrity of electoral processes?
What aspects of social media do we need to consider before designing a strategy to monitor disinformation?
What can be done to turn social media into more democratic spaces and free of manipulation from extreme groups and foreign actors?
Beyond election campaigns and hate speech monitoring, what are the other possible uses of social media monitoring to ensure the integrity of public discourse?

Relevance to Theme: Social media have transformed public discourse and political debate. Some NGOs have started monitoring social media in elections: in 2018, there has been a flurry of new social media monitoring initiatives around various elections. 'Supporting Democracy', a technical assistance project of the European Commission (DG International Development and Cooperation) has set up a working group on social media monitoring with two of its member organizations: Democracy Reporting International (Germany) and the National Democratic Institute (US) and various CSOs worldwide such as ISFED (Georgia), DRF (Pakistan), etc.
Monitoring the threats and improving the political discourse online is key in order to increase resilience of democratic institutions and safeguard voters’ prerogative to exercise their political rights without being manipulated. This session will present and discuss the working group’s findings. In particular, it will compare the pros and cons of various methodologies that civic groups have tested in various countries and how a joint methodology can help future attempts to identify hate speech, information operations, and others. The roundtable aims to sketch out possible plans for larger cooperation among civil society groups that wish to monitor social media in elections, and within the broader agenda of monitoring the integrity of public discourse.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Dealing with the threats associated with social media use around elections is far too complex to be done by just one stakeholder. When it comes to tackling information operations on social media platforms that aim to discredit a candidate, spread conspiracy theories and false information, and to polarise people’s opinions, one should consider not only state regulation, but also through a change in the design of social media platforms. Civil society groups can play a central role in this fledgling debate, as they have been gathering evidence through diverse methodological approaches over the past few years and can claim to be the best positioned to usefully contribute to this debate. Our roundtable will discuss which directions stakeholders in social media monitoring may explore in order to turn social media into a healthier, more credible democratic space for political confrontation and debate.


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Description: With the rise of social media, electoral campaigns have been increasingly subjected to political manipulation through false information, hate speech, and coordinated campaigns against minorities. Together, Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have been working on a methodology to monitor social media during electoral cycles and beyond. In so doing, they also intend to make a useful contribution to updating the capacity of international Election Observation Missions that ensure that democratic processes are credible, and that rules are respected both online and offline. Under the Supporting Democracy initiative, they have been testing and improving their new methodologies for social media monitoring in direct cooperation with local civil society organisations such diverse countries as Georgia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Thailand.
In 2018, based on its pioneering work of monitoring social media ahead of the 2017 German general elections, DRI published a paper that charted an approach towards a social media monitoring methodology. They also published a report on disinformation, international law, and election observation. Supporting Democracy successfully organised the EU's first global campaign on civic technologies for democracy, ‘CivicTech4Democracy’ in the same year, and launched a global study on 'Innovative Approaches to Citizen Participation in Restrictive Environments' which examines how civil society can bypass authoritarian restrictions to election observation through remote social media-based elections analysis. This session will mobilise IGF participants on these topics and will discuss options for international cooperation, based on 'open source' sharing of successful solutions and tools.
This session intends to spark interest and draw attention to the various ways in which social media monitoring can be designed and implemented. It aims to pave the way for broad cooperation mechanisms among civic groups across the world on shared design principles.
Based on this expertise, we propose the following outline:
a. Intro with key aspects of the methodology
b. Findings from different countries (we will define which cases are more important from the analysis we performed/will perform in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria, Germany, Brazil).
c. Address the existing challenges in social media monitoring during elections. How can this exercise be improved? what are the role of companies in that effort? how can Observation Missions be more attentive to the online environment?

Expected Outcomes: • Increase awareness among Civil Society Organisations and point out to best practices that will support them in their monitoring efforts.
• Spark a debate about what companies can do to improve the design of their products, changing the incentives of malicious actors to engage in information operations and hate speech in the context of elections
• Define routes that policy makers can explore when it comes to regulation: what are areas where regulation is desirable, and which fields regulation may be ineffective?

Onsite Moderator: 

Pouye Raphael, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Online Moderator: 

Pouye Raphael, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Pouye Raphael, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Discussion Facilitation: 

Since it's a methodology, we aim at giving short inputs and results to make the discussion more concrete. We will have short sessions of discussions divided in three topic areas around election observation (monitoring paid ads, monitoring hate speech and monitoring disinformation) welcoming inputs from the participants.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

Proposed Additional Tools: Show some aspects of the methodology on slides, potential findings and points for discussion. (projector, presentations)


GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions