About the Project: Election Watch
A new research initiative investigating the interplay between digital platforms and election integrity — and confirming that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships.
Freedom House is piloting a new research initiative to investigate the interplay between digital platforms and election integrity. Recent events have confirmed that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships. Election Watch for the Digital Age equips technology companies, civil society organizations, and policymakers with a data-driven resource for evaluating the human rights impact of internet platforms on a country’s electoral process.
Freedom House has created a new Election Vulnerability Index consisting of key election-related indicators regarding a country’s political rights and internet freedom. Derived from our annual Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net reports, the data and accompanying analysis allows users to identify specific areas of concern ahead of a country’s election, including online influence operations, internet shutdowns, or intercommunal tensions fanned by social media.
Working with experts around the world, Freedom House will also document threats to human rights and election integrity in the months leading up to key votes. The research will be used to better understand the interplay between internet platforms and democracy amid an unprecedented rise in digital election interference. To get in touch with the team, please email [email protected].
Election Vulnerability Index Methodology and Checklist of Questions
- Each Election Vulnerability Index (EVI) indicator corresponds to a question from the Freedom in the World (FIW) and Freedom on the Net (FOTN) reports. EVI indicators are split into three categories - digital sphere, electoral system and political participation, and human rights - that help users compare strengths and weaknesses between countries, and consider how digital, electoral, and human rights issues interact.
- Each question is scored on a scale of 0 to 4, where 0 is worst and 4 is best, for a total EVI score out of 100, where 100 represents the least vulnerable electoral environment and 0 the most.
- Scores for questions from Freedom in the World are drawn directly from the most recent editions of that report.
- For checklist questions drawn from Freedom on the Net, the relevant scores are converted to a scale of 0 to 4. If the country is not covered by Freedom on the Net, the Freedom House team uses original research to approximate FOTN scores on the same scale: 0=clear evidence of significant problems; 2=Relevant recent examples but not an ongoing problem, or some evidence of more moderate issues; 4=no problems or very few and insignificant problems of this kind.
- For more details about what issues are covered by a question, please refer to the full Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net methodologies.
Digital Sphere (out of 32)
- Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? (FOTN A3)
- Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content? (FOTN B1)
- Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content? (FOTN B2)
- Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? (FOTN B5)
- Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities? (FOTN C2)
- Are individuals penalized for online activities? (FOTN C3)
- Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in retribution for their online activities? (FOTN C7)
- Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? (FOTN C8)
Electoral System & Political Participation (out of 32)
- Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? (Note: Heads of government chosen through various electoral frameworks, including direct elections for president, indirect elections for prime minister by parliament, and the electoral college system for electing presidents, are covered under this question. In cases of indirect elections for the head of government, the elections for the legislature or other body that chose the head of government, as well as the selection process for the head of government itself, should be taken into consideration. In systems where executive authority is formally divided between a head of state and a head of government, greater weight should be given to elections for the official with the most executive authority.) (FIW A1)
- Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? (FIW A2)
- Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? (FIW A3)
- Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? (FIW B1)
- Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? (FIW B2)
- Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? (FIW B3)
- Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? (FIW B4)
- Does the government operate with openness and transparency? (FIW C3)
Human Rights (out of 36)
- Are there free and independent media? (Note: “Media” refers to all relevant sources of news and commentary—including formal print, broadcast, and online news outlets, as well as social media and communication applications when they are used to gather or disseminate news and commentary for the general public. The question also applies to artistic works in any medium.) (FIW D1)
- Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? (FIW D4)
- Is there freedom of assembly? (FIW E1)
- Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? (Note: This includes civic organizations, interest groups, foundations, think tanks, gender rights groups, etc.) (FIW E2)
- Is there an independent judiciary? (FIW F1)
- Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? (FIW F2)
- Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? (FIW F3)
- Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? (FIW F4)
- Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic composition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group? (FIW Additional Discretionary Question)
Explore the Research
See the latest updates, data, and preelection assessments for countries around the world.
Acknowledgements: Election Watch for the Digital Age
Election Watch for the Digital Age is a collaborative effort between Freedom House staff and external researchers who provide expertise on the countries we track.