Media Monitoring by State Bodies

State institutions may be tasked with monitoring the media environment around elections.

This may be with the goal of determining if the campaigning rules and allocations are being followed, with penalties for transgressions.

Historically, this was an activity focused on traditional media –broadcast and print– however this may now expand to include the online space.

This role is assumed typically by the election management body or a media regulator.



The formal monitoring of the election information environment can be a means to protect the information environment and enforce the rules as per the legislative framework. It will allow the appropriate authorities to support the level playing field that parties should adhere to by providing the means to enforce election campaign rules. These may include:

  • Measuring the advertising spending of campaigns to enforce campaign finance rules.
  • Ensuring that candidates and political parties refrain from prohibited language, namely hate speech or incitement to violence.
  • Monitoring that the campaign is restricted to the official period and, in particular, that the campaign silence period is respected.

The activity may also review media-outlet online content or other publishers.

Support for these activities may include engagement of the governing legislation or regulations, advice on the operationalization of work, strategic communications guidance, provision of equipment or the development of technology to support this work. Where the authorities have supported a code of conduct, they may be called upon to monitor the media to assess compliance. Of course, there are other entities that can choose to conduct a form of non-binding media monitoring, such as election observation missions or civil society groups; however such efforts shall be considered outside the scope of this tool. These bodies may be established as independent authorities in order to improve trust in their findings and insulate them from political pressure.


How to ensure context specificity and sensitivity? 

Efforts need to be taken to ensure that any algorithms that are used to crawl the Internet support an impartial picture of the situation, with consideration of language challenges. The strategic communications plan that the body established should be attuned to the context risks.


How to involve youth?

Expanding monitoring to include the online space is important so that youth participation can be addressed in the process. Within this, youth should be considered in their various dimensions, as creators of political content and as potential targets of harmful or incendiary material. Youth may be the best placed individuals to conduct the review of online content.


How to ensure gender sensitivity/inclusive programming?

Elections potentially pose particular concerns for marginalized groups and women, whereby they are often a target of harassment, information pollution and on- and offline violence. The allocation of resources, monitoring methodology and technology setup should take this into account.

By engaging a diverse set of content reviewers, the authority is best placed to understand concerns from across the country and all spectrum of persons. The inclusion of vulnerable communities and all linguistic groups is vital to being aware of content that is particularly at risk of instigating violence.


How to communicate about these activities?

  • While the activity is typically underpinned by a set of legal sanctions, these may require significant time to resolve and do not necessarily rectify the damage that sanctioned campaign activity has caused to the election process.
  • Accordingly, the implementing body may want to consider how and if to address the narratives of information pollution in an expedited fashion. It should employ measures described within a pre-established strategic communication plan. For example, it may release a statement, engage with the social media platform or work with civil society partners.


How to coordinate with other actors/which other stakeholders to involve?

  • Relationships with the range of actors and stakeholders are critical to the success of the media monitoring project—in particular when attempting to respond to the issues found.
  • Social media platforms may be a key actor for the media monitoring body to try to engage. It may seek their cooperation both with access to data and supporting responses to sanctioned content.
  • Other entities may be conducting similar work around the election, even if without a legal mandate. These bodies may provide additional reports for the authority to review and may act as a partner in the debunking of offending narratives.
  • The body may even establish a tip-line for the public to directly submit content for its review.


How to ensure sustainability?

  • Consideration should be given to commitments that exceed a single election and the resource impositions related to them.
  • Given the nascent nature of this field, and the fast-changing field of technology, advice should recognize that provisions may need to change between elections and that mechanisms should be established to monitor the success of the measures.



While it is difficult to truly advise upon costings without a clear vision of a particular project, some factors to consider include:

  • Experts – Experts may be required to advise upon the design of the programme, its parameters, workflows, etc. They may also be required to provide support with capacity-building, how to use the technology and coaching of delivery, at least through the initial phases.
    Depending on the institution’s capacity, additional expertise may be required for more in-depth reviews of online patterns or attribution. If an outside firm is required, this may be costly.
  • Technology – A software solution may be required to organize the work and to inspect potentially problematic content on social media (or other media). Not all software for this purpose is created equal, and its ability to be customised, to access data from a wide variety of sources and to accurately flag contentious information while also providing features to support the efficacy of fact-checkers are some items to pay attention to when determining an appropriate solution. Some work may be required to configure the system to the requirements of the specific partner, and this may also carry additional cost.
    Hosting may be required for the software, and how this is valued over the long term may be a consideration. The solution may be cloud-based or designed to be hosted on local infrastructure—both of which have various cost and security implications. This may include the need to modify and deploy software to organize work, provide hardware, recruit staff to review the content and analyse outcomes, and conduct trainings and monitoring.
  • Distribution – Depending on the institution’s mandate, it may require funds to distribute its findings.


  • Access to social media data may be challenging, with some platforms resistant to sharing with government institutions. They may also be cautious—and slow—in addressing concerns that the media monitoring body raises.
  • The vast quantity of speech-related content existing on social media may complicate the job of media monitoring, requiring additional technology to help pre-identify content of concern.
  • The inherent requirement to use technology to prune the information under review introduces a new set of ethical concerns, such as bias in the supporting algorithms.
  • There is a need to consider monitoring in as many languages as possible to ensure that potential problematic content in vernacular languages is not missed or able to spread widely without detection.
  • The activity carries the general complexity and political sensitivity inherent with traditional election media monitoring. There are invariably difficult decisions to make, which require the EMB to be protected from political pressure, or even physical harm.
  • The availability and access to advertising libraries of the social media platforms are critical, though not always in place.
  • Particular attention may need to be paid to disinformation and hate speech produced outside of the country in question that may very well influence the information landscape. This may include foreign information manipulation but also information and hateful speech shared by the diasporas. In this regard, the social listening tools’ geolocation tracking may be misleading as not all posts will include a geotag. Furthermore, the geotag provided may not necessarily be the same as the location where the content was captured.
  • The attribution of campaigning activities can be complicated online with the scope for anonymity, making it more difficult to censure political parties.


Countering Disinformation, Social Media Monitoring for Legal and Regulatory Compliance

This resource combines the collective experience of the organizations belonging to the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), namely IFES, IRI and NDI. This living project provides an outline of what’s being done to address the challenge in key areas and a searchable inventory of the organizations around the world engaged in making the digital landscape safe for democracy

Ace Project, Media Monitoring

The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network is the world’s largest online community and repository of electoral knowledge. It provides comprehensive information and specialised advice on any aspect of electoral processes



The GECOM in Guyana has, for multiple elections, operated its own Media Monitoring Unit (MMU). The existence of the MMU is directly linked to a Media Code of Conduct that guides journalists in their coverage of election issues and processes. A sample monitoring report can be found here





Information Integrity E-learning

Coming soon