Searching for Voter Suppression Incidents as They Happen? Use These Twitter Expert Tips.

7 mins read

Analyzing tweets it is like drinking from a fire hydrant. New apps make it easier to analyze tweets to spot instances of voter suppression as they occur.

Twitter provides an external interface that makes such analysis possible. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram on the other hand, do not enable external analysis of their posts making them rife with misinformation.

DemLabs regularly undertakes pro bono projects related to voting rights and civil justice issues. This project monitors tweets for mentions of terms such as ‘Voter Suppression’, ‘intimidation’ and ‘wait times’ with the Nexalogy. This project has so far analyzed over half a million tweets from Sept 27 to Oct 4, 2020.

Tips for finding useful info on Twitter

  1. Choose the right search terms. Use the words that will most likely be in the tweets and hashtags relevant to your needs.
  2. Refine your search. Focus your search by geography, timeframe and other parameters.
  3. Monitor what’s trending? This will change on an hourly basis and often provides clues on how to change your search criteria.
  4. Top publishers. This provides a list of potential influencers on your search topic who might be contacted to help share your message.
  5. What tweets are getting shared the most? This changes continuously and provides insights to public sentiments. Watch out for the pesky bots who will share tweets from other bots and pretend to be human.
  6. Keywords being used. Analyzing the words tweeters use can help you improve your messaging with those words.
  7. Top hashtags. Track the hashtags being used in association with your search terms and incorporate them in your tweets.
  8. Top actors. Who are the people tweeting the most and how are the connected with other people tweeting about it.
  9. Watch for bots? These automated trolls can pump out thousands of tweets meant to hijack the conversation but do not represent authentic human interactions.
  10. Foreign interference? Track tweets likely from overseas and who is amplifying those messages domestically.
  11. Sentiment analysis. Software analyzes the words used in tweets to predict the sentiment of the person tweeting at that time.

Search Criteria: Define your search terms to cast a wide net. We searched for tweets with the word ‘VOTE’ that also included other words such as ‘SUPPRESSION’ or ‘INTIMIDATION’. This let us find likely tweets which we then filtered with other criteria.

Refine your search: Focussing searches by geography is valuable. We have 22 searches underway – nationally and 21 others for key cities and states where voter suppression is expected. Refine searches by time period, remove retweets and likely propaganda from groups such as the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA).

What’s trending? Track what is trending within your search parameters based on how often and how many times a relevant tweet is being shared. It’s a good practice to tweet your comments into those conversation threads as they are trending.

Top publishers. Who are the people that are tweeting the most in the area you are interested in. This could be someone tweeting about voter suppression in Dallas for instance. These tweeters could be added to your direct message (DM) list for help with re-tweeting your messages.

Most tweeted. Retweeting is a good indicator of the traction that message is getting. Here is shows which incidents of voter suppression are of most concern in the area you are interested it. They may also possibly include photos, videos and details of perpetrators as well.

Keywords used. Tweets will often include one or more of your keywords. They are also likely to include other words that weren’t in your initial search parameters. Refine your search parameters by adding widely used words.

Top hashtags. What hashtags are being used in context with your search parameters such as #votersuppression. Use these hashtags when you tweet.

Top actors. Who are the top actors and how are they inter-connected? This dashboard indicates the connections between James O’Keefe, President Trump, Project Veritas, ‘cwarrior17’ that is connected to the GOP.

Watch for bots. Bots generate flood Twitter and drown out real voices. They can be spotted by their frequency and volume of tweets. Note the high volume of tweets about voter suppression by Project Veritas the day after the NY Times reported President Trump paid $750 in Federal taxes.

Foreign interference. Watch for tweets coming from overseas and being amplified by tweeters in America. Such tweets are often a source of disinformation.

Sentiment analysis. The words that people use in their tweets reveals a lot about their mood at that time. Track pubic sentiment about the issues that you are interested.

Take away: Track voter suppression as it happens real-time social media monitoring. Contact DemLabs for pro bono help with projects related to voting rights and social justice.

Input from this Twitter analysis is part of the See Say 2020 system which provides real time alerts about voter suppression and intimidation.


Image credit: Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash
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Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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