April 11 2024 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

Learn More About the Election Watch for the Digital Age Project

  • Date: Thursday, April 11
  • Time: 9am EDT / 1pm UTC
  • Who: Elizabeth Sutterlin and Maddie Masinsin
  • Facilitator: Mardiya
  • Where: On TCU Mattermost "IF Square" Channel.

Election Watch for the Digital Age is a data-driven project that helps technology companies, policymakers, and civil society forecast the risk of human rights violations and digital interference ahead of elections around the world. The project assesses a country's political context and the digital threats posed to the electoral process. Join us to hear from members of the Freedom House team about what goes into producing Election Watch data and assessments!

Featured guests bios:

  • Elizabeth Sutterlin (@eksutterlin on Mattermost) is a research associate for technology and democracy at Freedom House. She coordinates the Election Watch for the Digital Age project and covers Africa for Freedom on the Net.
  • Maddie Masinsin (@mmasinsin on Mattermost) is the community engagement specialist for technology and democracy at Freedom House. In this role, she works closely with the global network of experts that help produce the Freedom on the Net report and assists with the organization’s engagement with the Freedom Online Coalition, Global Network Initiative, and broader internet freedom community.

What is Glitter Meetup?

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. It is a text-based chat where digital rights defenders can share regional and projects updates, expertise, ask questions, and connect with others from all over the world! Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.


Can you give us a short overview of what the election watch tool is, and what it does?
  • Election watch is a data-driven resource that investigates the interplay between tech platforms and election integrity. Edited
  • Its goal is to provide stakeholders (companies, policymakers, and civil society organizations) with key insights about human rights impacts of internet platforms ahead of a vote so they can be better prepared to respond to these threats.
  • Here's the link to the tool: https://freedomhouse.org/report/election-watch-digital-age
How was the tool designed built? That is what was the methodology used in conceptualising and eventually building the too from problem statement, to approaches to gathering data, and eventually putting together the tool?
  • The Election Watch tool actually draws on existing Freedom House data from two of our annual surveys: Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net.
  • So because of this, we drew on their methodologies when creating the tool and selecting indicators for the election vulnerability index.
  • And both methodologies are grounded in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights to assess the rights enjoyed by people around the world both on and offline
What is a vulnerability index, what informed the naming, definitions and categorizations of vulnerability per country? Especially given the heterogeneity of each country? Was all this based on the Universal declaration for human rights?
  • So the vulnerability index is comprised of 25 key election-related indicators, drawn from our methodologies from Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net. Indicators fall into three categories: digital sphere, electoral system and political participation, and human rights. We track a variety of common tactics of digital election interference (things like internet shutdowns, website blocks, repressive laws restricting freedom of expression, content removal, technical attacks, arrests for online speech.)
  • So while different countries may face very different digital and electoral environments, all of them are assessed on the same indicators. This is part of why it can be helpful to look at specific scores and not just the overall EVI - two countries with the same overall score might have totally different scores on measures of digital repression, or on their human rights record and protections, for example.
Why is it important for folks in digital right to track elections and vulnerability associated with them? What actions do you anticipate coming out of this information?
  • Elections can serve as a flashpoint for digital repression. Longstanding digital rights violations may be amplified during or after electoral periods, which is why it's crucial to track and monitor them
  • Election Watch has value for those outside the private sector who are involved in digital rights advocacy. For example, stakeholders in civil society can leverage the predicted “digital interference issues” in each EWDA assessment to inform their advocacy and action around elections periods; if an EWDA data signals network disruptions folks can run OONI tests and be on the lookout for website blocks, etc etc
What were some of the challenges and lessons from building the election watch tool? Anything anyone doing similar work should be aware of?
  • When the tool was first developed, it was mainly intended to inform tech companies to guide their decisions about relevant threats to elections in respective companies where they are operating. I would say a lesson that our team has learned in the subsequent years of running this project is that it is a valuable tool for others who are monitoring elections as well, since there aren't many products out there that provide summaries of an election environment like this. With that said, we're also always interested in hearing how people are using the tool and how we can make it even more helpful.
How people interested should used the tool? For instance, theres the index, and then a report etc. How should someone interested n using it approach it to get the best value out of it?
  • Elizabeth says: I think I would just add that in addition to the data for the vulnerability index, the country narratives for elections we track are also a helpful resource that provide further context about a country's environment!
There is a participant that used this tool, so we ask some questions: Do you mind sharing with us how folks have used the tool in the past?
  • Currently working on a UN-funded project and folks are comparing Election Vulnerability Index with their reports findings. Basically examining issues such as Internet disruptions and blocking of platforms and websites.
  • I like to examine how state and non-state actors attempt to divert and hijack speech by diluting and hijacking the conversations. That's big in the MENA region as actors can't block social media entirely.
What locations are you conducting this study in? Would you be open to sharing your findings with us some time, or if its is ready to be shared?
  • We are conducting this study in the MENA region.
  • The work has recently focused on examining discussions around elections worlwide. I don't have live examples of this year's work, but to give you an example, here is something from last year https://helminoman.com/us-midterm-elections-october-24-2022/
  • I am doing similar work this year and produce montly analysis where I analyze the disource and the communities using data science and graph theory. I can't share everything right now, but I will once I have live reports.