Civil society organizations are increasingly undertaking social media monitoring initiatives as a part of their efforts to analyze the information environment and how it impacts democratic norms and civic participation in their communities and across the globe. Digital platforms play particularly profound roles in closing spaces, allowing for information exchange when traditional media is often captured or state-sponsored. Unfortunately, these platforms can also be weaponized as instruments of propaganda, censorship, surveillance, and control. There are a lot of social media monitoring tools that civil society organizations can use to undertake data collection, data analysis and data visualization. However, there are limitations to their use and vulnerabilities that civil society should consider. Sufficient analysis of the impact of the information environment around elections and other political discourse relies on data access and transparency. However, platform policies including electoral integrity oversight, parameters regarding the amount and types of data available, and access to Application Programming Interfaces change frequently and may be applied inconsistently across countries. The changing tech industry landscape adds additional complexity to an already competitive, fluid and costly market of third-party applications that surround the world of digital platforms. Identifying and using the most appropriate social media monitoring tool to promote democratic transparency and accountability can be challenging for civil society organizations due to the unpredictable and evolving protocols, priorities, and frameworks of digital platforms. This can disproportionately impact groups operating in closed or closing spaces, which often face funding limitations and barriers to technical support and open data. To better understand the opportunities and gaps for nonpartisan civic partners interested in monitoring information integrity around elections and other democratic moments, NDI evaluated and cataloged over 100 established and emerging vendors, services and tools across the social media monitoring landscape, examining their costs, technological specs, usability, source type, supported platforms, global application, and specific operational considerations for closed and closing spaces.
Tuesday, December 12, 2023