Categories: Election


Monitoring Online Discourse During An Election: A 5-Part Series

The advantages of managing election logistical issues through social media.

Organizing the logistics of an election is a complex process. It’s a question of scale; the sheer numbers involved – of voters, of polling options and locations, and of election materials – means that things can, and will, go wrong.


  • Delay in receiving ballots in the mail
  • Questions about options of voting electronically or by mail
  • Incorrect name or address on ballot
  • How to find information on where to vote
  • Confusion regarding polling station location
  • Confusion regarding the hours that polling stations are open
  • Accessibility issues
  • Confusion regarding what ID to bring
  • Power outages that impact polling stations
  • Road blocks and construction impeding access to a polling station
  • Whether polling hours are delayed
  • Whether there is a long line-up and voting is delayed
  • Availability, and courtesy, of EMB personnel
  • Conflicts at the polling station
  • Issues re third-party election monitors (if applicable)
  • Police presence
  • Dead people and non-citizens voting

Operational issues can be divided into two types. There are logistical concerns, such as:

As well, there are problems caused by the propagation of disinformation (or misinformation).

What role is played by Disinformation?

There can often be an overlap between Operational Issues, Disinformation, and Misinformation. Tweets regarding the location of a particular polling station fall into the Operational Issues category, but that information may be mistaken (Misinformation) or deliberately misleading (Disinformation). There is an almost complete overlap between Disinformation and Misinformation – the only difference is the intent behind the sharing of inaccurate information.

As the table below demonstrates, many Operational Issues may also become targets of Disinformation or Misinformation.


Why should EMBs monitor social media?

EMBs have a formal complaints process, and if concerns are raised outside that process, EMB staff are not obligated to respond. However, given the pervasive nature of social media, vexed voters are much more likely to grouse on the Internet than to file a formal complaint. Social media has become an informal complaints process; Twitter in particular. With its use of hashtags, Twitter dominates social media election discourse. (Election discussion on Facebook, Telegram, and WhatsApp takes place on private pages.) The chart below shows social media discourse around the 2019 UK general election with the hashtag #GE2019, by volume.

What can EMBs do about social media-based complaints?

Complaints can fall into one of several categories:

Social media as a mass communication tool: Social media messaging can mitigate public discontent, respond proactively to problems, and send broad messaging demonstrating that the EMB is in control of the situation. For example: after complaints of robocalls which state the election date has changed, the EMB could tweet that these robocalls are giving false information and should be ignored. Such messaging will be picked up by traditional media.

When should EMBs monitor social media?

Monitoring should occur throughout the election period, Election milestones tend to be flashpoints when online discourse increases – these are highlighted in the diagram below.


Part of a 5-part series on

Monitoring Online Discourse During An Election:

PART ONE:  Introduction

PART TWO:  Identifying Disinformation

PART THREE:  Managing Operational issues

PART FOUR:  KI Design National Election Social Media Monitoring Playbook

PART FIVE:  Monitoring Political Financing Issues




Article info

Leave a Reply