Abraham Lincoln said: “Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.” This is as true today as it was in Lincoln’s times.
Democratic institutions need some public trust and support in order to be effective. But public opinion is now moulded in different ways than it was. The famous ‘gatekeepers’ of information, such as journalists, have a lesser role in the public debate. Social media have expanded democracy, by giving more people a voice and a chance to be heard, but social media are also manipulated to undermine a democratic discourse.
- work on methods to monitor in real-time and to understand how debates take place on social media and what rules may apply;
- partner with citizen groups from many countries to analyse discourse on social media;
- work with election observers to start including social media in their assessments.
Read more in our Briefing Paper and Opinion Article:
SOCIAL MEDIA / NETWORKS DISINFORMATION AND PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW IN THE CONTEXT OF ELECTION OBSERVATION
Social media and networks have become an essential space of public and semi-public discourse. They have shown their democratising potential by increasing access to information and greatly lowering the barrier of participation in public debates, however, the last few years have also shown some of the risks that are present in social media. The low barriers to participation have been used by various state and not-state actors attempting to undermine electoral integrity by spreading disinformation, intimidating stakeholders and suppressing free speech.
This briefing paper written by our Executive Director Michael Meyer-Resende seeks to give impetus to the debate on three questions:
- What does international human rights law, the reference point for international election observation, has to say about social media in elections?
- What has been done practically by observers to monitor social media in elections?
- What else could be done and how should international election observation missions, which have the ambition to comprehensively follow an election approach the task?
An opinion article on POLITICO by DRI´s Raymond Serrato and Michael Meyer-Resende on how Facebooks Al-based approach fails in conflict countries.