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While the role of social media’s impact on elections and democratic discourse is widely discussed, the evidence basis of the debate remains thin. Producing evidence is even more difficult in a fast-moving technological context. Civil society organisations can play a role in monitor social media and to provide systematic reporting in relevant timeframes.

We believe an evidence-based and inclusive understanding of the threats and vulnerabilities should be the basis of effective solutions. Since 2018 DRI has been strengthening capacities of civil society in many countries to monitor social media during elections, gathering expert organizations, producing methodologies and informing the public, expert and legislative debate.

 

Our methodology and tools:

  • Monitor Social Media

DRI works on democratic discourse online and its threats, such as disinformation and lack of transparency. We have developed a standard methodology for monitoring social media during elections. We will publish a detailed, online toolkit for public use by organisations around the world to monitor social media. With it, we aim at lowering the barrier of participation in this debate, simplifying the technical challenges associated with monitoring social media.

  • Inform Regulation

We bring researchers and organisations together to discuss and inform regulatory efforts to safeguard a democratic debate online. We focus on EU regulation as well as national regulation in a number of countries we work in.

 

Our analysis:

In partnership with local organizations, we gathered evidence on the impact of social media in recent elections in several EU countries, including Poland, Portugal, Croatia, Romania, Austria, and Spain. DRI also conducts social media monitoring of political events directly through its Country Offices. This includes:

Tunisia With a local partner, ATIDE, DRI monitored the 2019 parliamentary electoral campaigns on Facebook, which illustrated the lack of transparency of online political messaging. Two-thirds of all political messages was generated by undeclared political actors – a network of unofficial Facebook pages. Read more here.

 

Pakistan In 2019 DRI produced a study of the social media landscape in Pakistan and its impact on political discourse, providing concrete recommendations to legislators to limit the abuse of social media in democratic politics.

 

Ukraine By monitoring the use of social media by political actors during the 2019 presidential elections, DRI identified different strategies used by official and unofficial agents. The latter was more likely to use defamation techniques. Read about it here.

 

Libya DRI monitored political discourse to assess public opinion and online response in relation to constitutional reform, elections, conflict, and the political process in 2019. Security related content took centre stage online, reflecting the LNA offensive.

 

Myanmar In the run up to the 2020 elections, DRI in Myanmar is focusing on online pluralism by conducting social media monitoring to unveil how hate and violent discourses directed at minorities present spread on Facebook. Find out more here.
European Union In 2019 we drew on our network to provide recommendations on the EU’s disinformation framework during the European parliamentary elections.

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