Berkeley students scour social media in day of live election monitoring

November 2, 2020

The Human Rights Center Investigations Lab and Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley are gearing up for a massive day of live monitoring of the 2020 elections on social media: More than 60 UC Berkeley students, Investigations Lab alumni, and staff will come together in a virtual newsroom from when the polls open in the east until they close in the west. They will monitor Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok and more for information about violence, voter suppression or intimidation, and dis/misinformation, and feed posts to our partners at Amnesty International and in the news media.

“Capturing what’s happening on this critical day in US history is a huge challenge,” said Alexa Koenig, Executive Director of the Human Rights Center and co-founder of the center’s Investigations Lab. “Our Berkeley students have been trained to mine the internet for information in real-time, to identify misinformation and verify facts, and to collaborate with leading newsrooms and human rights organizations to ensure accurate information reaches the public.” 

Our Investigations Lab is partnering with Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program for at least a day—potentially a week—of live monitoring. How will it work? For weeks, we’ve been strategizing about the best ways to process our workflow to surface reports of voter suppression and possible violence. 

On Nov. 3, plans will turn into action: students, alumni, and staff will document incidents across diverse sources and social media platforms, noting the nature of the incident or claim for verification and analysis . Trained in digital open source investigation methods, team members each have an assigned role: scanning Twitter, archiving content, monitoring police scanners, etc. The task of coordinating, The student-led team has devised a fully integrated data collection strategy to categorize and organize information efficiently—whether it’s about dis/misinformation, violence, suppression, or something else—in order for that data to be verified, mapped or reconstructed later. Is there a police presence? Reports of militia groups? Are people being turned away from the polls? Has a manipulated video gone viral?  

In constant contact with partners, the students will be prepared to pivot to breaking news and verify reports. 

Although we can't be together physically, we’re coming together virtually to document, verify, analyze, and bring to light information about elections 2020. Watch our blog at medium.com/humanrightscenter for news on what’s happening in real time, throughout the day.