Aggregating election social media in real time to prevent conflict


Mike Best and his team at Georgia Tech have designed a real-time election monitoring tool that aggregates social media content from about 20 different sources, including Twitter, Facebook, Ushahidi, blogs, and SMS messages. As reports begin to filter in, the aggregator uses clustering around certain keywords to create an organic catalogue of “curated incidents.” This way, the monitoring team in the “response room” can inform others about irregularities and problems.

The tool was used in Nigeria in April 2011 and in Liberia in October 2011. Following the election, the data can be analyzed to improve the use of social media and SMS to improve future election experiences. Examples:

  • Training civilian groups and voters to tweet election results
  • Organizing SMS group accounts for both national and local election officials
  • Establishing a central database to collate election results, and having local precincts send results via SMS
  • Advising international monitoring organizations to partner with domestic groups that will monitor social media

“Nigeria showed that this technology has legitimate and useful applications for monitoring elections or keeping a real-time pulse on any number of political or community issues,” said Best. “Our ultimate goal is to delve deeper into the particulars of this, examining the information’s accuracy, depth, timeliness and scope, and comparing it along those dimensions to other sources of information.”

In 2012, Best hopes to employ the aggregator in monitoring elections in Kenya, Senegal and the new nation of South Sudan. Learn more »