Citizen Dialogue Centre | Countering Organised Interference & Electoral Disruptions
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Countering Organised Interference & Electoral Disruptions

This programme is part of the Election Integrity 2019 – South Africa project and is being run in parallel to our Deepening and Defending Democracy programme.


The collaborative efforts of The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change(CABC), Citizen Research Centre(CRC) and Citizen Dialogue Centre(CDC) will draw on:

  • the wealth of existing research related to digital misinformation and organised interference, the evolution of human communication, memory and socialisation, and similarly related fields;
  • the recent advancements in the fields of big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence;

to develop a powerful capability to detect potential and emerging disruptive influences on the 2019 elections, and devise and employ effective tactics to counter their impact.

Relevant data and insights will be shared with IEC evaluations, on-the-ground assessments and interventions, as well as reputable media outlets, with the aim of dampening the effect of misinformation, fake news and intimidating or polarizing rhetoric and hate speech even further.

This capability will be used post-elections to monitor and detect potential disruptive influences on socio-political cohesion and serve as a valuable additional input into efforts that promote peace-building and representation, both at local scales and at higher levels of governance.

Identify Organised
Interference &
Message

Manipulation
Counter Disruptive
Messaging & Expose
Identified Nodes
Inform & Empower
Civil Society
Stakeholders
Analyse public-domain social media data to
identify accounts and narratives which
display the
characteristics of
organised
interference, bot-net
activity or message
manipulation.
Develop and
implement strategies
to counter the
potential impact of
general voter
manipulation as well
as more specific
attempts at
interference.
Share relevant data
and insights related to threats (prominent,
emerging or potential) with organisations
that are working to improve and protect
socio-political
cohesion.
Node identification &
classification

Primary to this
programme is the
timeous identification of corrupted nodes
through a combination of research
methodologies and
tech-based solutions.
The correct
classification of these nodes (as fake
accounts, bot accounts, organised networks
nodes etc.) is vital to
developing reliable,
actionable insights.
Social network
analysis

Investigation into these nodes, their
inter-relationships and the structure of their external links will
be approached
through the use of
graph- and network
theory.
Interactive
visualisations of these networks will be
made publicly
available once
completed.
Narrative
identification

A combination of
advanced algorithmic analysis and
innovative
applications of
existing research
methodologies allow
our research team to
identify relevant
Themes and
Narratives from
within the larger
social media
conversation.
Provide trustworthy
counter-narrative
Research-backed communication strategies will be employed to
create & distribute
content, optimised to
counter the identified narrative
manipulation
attempts.
Evidence-based information, designed to be understood,
remembered and
share.
Subvert manipulation tactics
Existing research and new insights will be
transformed into
compelling
info-graphics and
animations to educate the public on the
tactics being used to
manipulate them and manufacture their
consent.
Expose identified
nodes and networks
Transparent
information regarding nodes that have been
identified as
suspicious will be
available to the public in near real-time.
Reporting related to
networks and
methodologies will be strategically
distributed as well as
being made publicly available.
IEC situation rooms
The IEC will filter this
information through
scenario analyses
conducted by
long-term experts
(i.e. to identify and
discriminate against
false alarms)
Network of observers and mediators
On-the-ground
observers and
mediators will attempt to verify and validate this information. Once confirmed, mediators, monitors, SAPS,
community leaders
and faith-based
groups, etc. can devise interventions and be mobilised to counter
emerging and
potentially disruptive
influences. Implicated organisations
We will endeavour to
inform stakeholder
organisation about
general threats within their field of work.
When specific civil
society organisations
are directly implicated in our findings, we
will notify them and
share all relevant
information.

THE TIME IS NOW

In-depth, real-time
analytics
Window of
opportunity

openSource & Academia
We have the opportunity, and advantage, of
being able to make use of the Citizen
Research Centre’s
analytical capability to track and detect
potentially disruptive narratives and to
devise and test
counter-disruption
methods in real time.
We can make use of
subject matter expertise and other forms of
local knowledge
(e.g. vernacular news, mainstream news,
political debates and
speeches, etc.) to
ground observations
of disruption in a
broader context.
This means that not
only will we be able to obtain (1) more
rigorous and robust
observations, but (2)
will be able to devise and test more effective counter-disruption
methods more quickly and reliably.
The key factor to take
into account is that the run-up to the 2019
election provides the
best window of
opportunity to
incubate, test and
establish a capability
that can effectively
detect, track and
counter online
misinformation and
fake news
proliferation.
A capability built
retrospectively will
have missed the
opportunity to act
upon disruptions in
real time and establish the most effective
ways of countering
them.
With particular
respect to electoral
integrity, there is no better opportunity for
establishing such a
capability than during an actually unfolding election
The extensive and
expanding list of openSource software,
specifically designed to address one or more
parts of this problem,
is an invaluable
toolbox for this
programme.
By strategically using
these tools we are able to draw on the skills and knowledge of countless other individuals
to solve gotchas,
bolster algorithmic
integrity, and
generally expedite the entire process.
Increasing interest
from social-science
academics into the
impact of social
media is not only heartening, but also vital to the success of this
programme.
We are able to draw
on this existing wealth of published research, as well as research
still in progress, to
develop processes and tactics which are aligned with not only our
values, but also
scientific best-practice.

PROJECT OVERVIEW PRESENTATION

View and Download the Full Project Presentation


RELATED ACADEMIC RESEARCH AND OTHER RESOURCES

Find external research and resources related to this project in our Resource Library


TOOLS TO KEEP YOURSELF SAFE ONLINE

Explore the plethora of free plug-ins, apps, extensions and other tools available to you

  • protect your privacy and identity online
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THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE


Immediate considerations

Medium and long-term
considerations
It is vital that this programme is
implemented immediately.
The May’19 election will provide
an unprecedented window of data collection and analysis – an
opportunity to learn how track and counter disruptions in real-time,
using a variety of interdisciplinary inputs.
Moreover, once an election has
been concluded, it is extremely
unlikely that the outcome will be
influenced by retrospective
research and reporting.
Simply put, the damage will have
been done and we would have
missed a critical opportunity to
both learn and act upon social
media based electoral disruption.
Ideally, this programme should continue after the initial 6 month
period.
The processes and learnings from
this intensive development period have been uniquely incubated and shaped by high-volume, rigorous
field-testing during the 2019
elections.
Continuous refinement of this
process over the next few years will enable us to develop an evidence-based gold standard for effectively detecting and countering Organised Interference and Message
Manipulation.
This required ongoing monitoring and analysis of social media
disruptions to the next municipal
elections, as well as general
disruptions in the social and
political realms in the medium
term.