Social Media Monitoring

Social Media Monitoring - First Interim Report

In the contemporary world of information technologies, social media has become a strong instrument for shaping political opinions and holding public debates. As the number of social media users and influence of social media platforms grows, political parties, candidates and activists rely more on social networks for disseminating their ideas, programs and opinions.
Out of many different social platforms that are available more and more people in Georgia turn to Facebook to receive and disseminate information. Facebook has also become one of the most large-scale platforms for election activity, greatly influencing the electoral environment and largely determining voter behavior.
Monitoring of the election campaign of the 2017 parliamentary elections illustrated that Facebook was used not only by political actors for dissemination of their election programs and ideas and for discussions, but also for discrediting individual candidates by spreading false and damaging information, in an organized and targeted manner. Throughout observation it also became evident that in addition to discrediting different electoral subjects, social media is also successfully used for bypassing legal restrictions on political financing and campaigning established by the electoral legislation.
In light of these, ISFED found it was important to monitor social media in the election context for the 2018 presidential election, because without observing and evaluating influences of social media, comprehensive evaluation of the electoral process is impossible.
Effects of social media on elections has drawn a lot of interest worldwide only recently, after evidence about possible outside meddling in Brexit referendum, in the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and in elections and referenda of European countries using social media was disclosed.
Up until now, international and domestic observer organizations essentially overlooked social media monitoring and evaluation of how social media affects elections. This is first of all related to the fact that there is no unified, time-tested methodology for social media monitoring, unlike in the case of monitoring traditional media using qualitative and quantitative components. Before the presidential election campaign was launched, ISFED developed a special methodology for systemic evaluation of different types of activities on Facebook related to elections.
In this way, ISFED is a pioneer of social media monitoring and its work helps introduce methodological approaches to systemic evaluation and monitoring of social media effects in the context of elections.