Democratic elections rely on a competitive process, faith in electoral institutions and informed participation. International standards for democratic elections assure the right of citizens to seek and receive accurate information regarding elections and level playing fields for political contests to vie for office. However, the deployment of false, exaggerated or contradictory information in the electoral environment has been a successful tool in undermining these principles around the world. Online disinformation can amplify voter confusion, reduce turnout, galvanize social cleavages, suppress political participation of women and other marginalized populations, and degrade trust in democratic institutions. While anti-democratic disinformation campaigns are not new, modernized information technology has changed their potential scope and scale. News sharing online and via social media can disseminate information at speeds, distances, and volumes unprecedented in electoral cycles of the past. Meanwhile, online political advertisements bring a new dimension to campaigns and additional challenges to election transparency and accountability. To adapt to the lack of clear and consistent regulations and policies governing online campaigning, citizen groups need to use new and adaptive methodologies to monitor online political discourse and financing.
The spread and prevalence of misinformation can pervert the will of voters, entrench authoritarians, and undermine confidence in democratic systems more broadly. This guidance document outlines NDI's programmatic approaches to addressing the threat of disinformation during elections. It focuses on the actions citizen election observers and international observers can take to mitigate, expose, and counter disinformation. It also stresses the importance of using open election data to deter disinformation and conduct advocacy around norms and standards to counter disinformation.
Case Studies on Disinformation, Social Media, and Electoral Integrity
Over the past 15 to 20 years, the country of Georgia has faced widespread disinformation and propaganda campaigns, many of which began long before the issue came to the fore globally. The impact of these disinformation campaigns multiplied as Georgia’s rates of internet penetration doubled between 2013 and 2020. And the impacts increased, even more, when campaigns moved more online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tactics, Trends & Responses to Disinformation & Elections
- NDI’s INFO/tegrity Initiative: NDI’s Initiative directed at providing a framework to lead and support institutional initiatives countering disinformation and other forms of online manipulation, while strengthening and ensuring the integrity of the information space.
- DemWorks podcast featuring Michelle Brown, senior advisor for elections at NDI, speaking to NDI analyst Calvin Garner about Ukraine’s recent parliamentary elections.
- Our Story- INFO/Tegrity: NDI’s Approach To Countering Disinformation
- NDI Partnerships Improve Digital Landscape In Georgia
- Countering Disinformation: A Guide to Promoting Information Integrity
- The EU’s Guide for Civil Society on Monitoring Social Media During Elections, developed by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) with support from NDI