Democracy Reporting International
Social media has become an arena of public discourse and political campaigns. While there is much debate about how it works, there is little ‘live’ monitoring. Many problems, such as manipulation, hate speech and trolls are discovered too late. We want to address this gap and raise awareness of its use. We will monitor social media in the Bavarian and the Moldovan elections. Our findings will make citizens more aware of how social media campaigns can manipulate messages and misinform voters.
Berlin, Bratislava, Duisburg-Essen, Bavaria and Moldova
Through this cross-border, multi-disciplinary project, we strengthen linkages among civic tech and democracy activists and media to contribute to electoral integrity, transparency and digital education. We want to build the ground for a wider effort of social media monitoring of the European Parliament elections in 2019.
We are looking at both national elections (Moldova) and sub-national, state elections (Bavaria), to test our monitoring methodology and identify the main trends in social media’s role in agenda-setting, misinformation and transparency of online ads.
The public and the expert community will be more aware and understand better how politicians and others use social media to set the agenda and to what extent disinformation is playing out in these two elections. Citizens will understand better how social media is used to target them. Domestic and international election observers will be able to use the findings to make recommendations on areas like campaign finance and transparency of the ads. Relevant electoral regulatory bodies will be able to use the findings to assess the campaign activities of political parties, such as, the use of inflammatory language, or intimidation of other candidates. Facebook’s promises of more transparency and stricter community standards will be monitored.
1.Kick-off meeting to assess the political context and agree on methodology
2.Partnership with a Moldovan think tank
3.Creation of outreach and communication plan of the findings
4.Monitoring during the pre-electoral/electoral and post-electoral period
5.A hackathon/communicathon in Moldova to engage ICT specialists, media and civil society in creating joint solutions for social media monitoring
6.Creation of an online tool based on the hackathon results
7.Publication and dissemination of regular reports using visuals
8.Presentation of the results and the interactive tools in Munich, Chisinau and Brussels
9.Evaluation of the use of the app/game/test
10.Collecting feedback from media and partners; lessons learnt and drafting of proposal for monitoring of EP elections 2019
Citizens use social media daily, but only the Cambridge Analytica scandal triggered a broader debate about hidden political influence and hidden marketing approaches. After the US elections and the Brexit referendum there has been a sense of “too late”. We want to inform citizens about the use of social media in electoral campaigns, so they can follow and interpret campaigning as it unfolds.
Civil society, media, first-time voters and the public need to understand that the content on social media is not only shaped by their interests, but by the algorithms. We also want to raise awareness on spread of disinformation and trolls. We believe that knowledge about social media bias, its algorithms and disinformation can help users to make more informed choices, especially during elections.
We do it primarily for the public. We will work with media, academia and civil society to spread the results through an interactive tool (quiz/test/online game). We will reach young people through social media campaigns and relevant media partnerships.
Our results should be of specific interest also to political parties, journalists, regulatory agencies, citizen observers, and academic researchers. We also do it to build the groundwork for an initiative that could be scaled up for EP elections in 2019.
We want to use two specific examples to show some of the social media tools used by political parties, individual candidates and others during electoral period. We plan to answer some of the following questions, but there might be more unanticipated findings.
- How are themes presented by contestants in social media, who sets the agenda and how?
- How do political parties use targeted ads in their campaigning? (and does Facebook keep its promise to publish all such ad)?
- What is the level of disinformation spread by politicians?
- Can public track engagement of trolls and fake accounts?
- Can public identify other forms of disinformation and manipulation?
- How are women or minority group candidates represented in social media? Do they face abuse, or higher levels of trolling?
Funding requested from Advocate Europe
Travel and accommodation costs: 8,230 € Events costs: 9,390 € Expert fees and honorarium: 12,305 € Public relations: 2,012 € Personnel costs: 16,464.00 €
Are there other organisations doing social media research? We could apply our methodology for other projects/elections if there are like-minded organisations already working on this topic.