The Law of Democracy, Legal Structure of the Political Process book cover

This book created the field of the law of democracy, offering a systematic account of the legal construction of American democracy. This edition represents a significant revision that reflects the embattled state of democracy in the U.S. and abroad. With the addition of Franita Tolson as well as Nathaniel Persily to the prior edition, the book now turns to a changed legal environment following the radical reconfiguration of the Voting Rights Act, the rise of social media and circumvention of the formal channels of campaign finance, and the increased fragmentation of political parties. Strikingly, in the current political environment the right to register and vote passes from being a largely historical inquiry to a source of front-burner legal challenge. This edition further streamlines the coverage of the Voting Rights Act, expands the scope of coverage of campaign finance and political corruption issues, and turns to the new dispute over voter access to the ballot. The section on election litigation and remedies has been expanded to address the expanded range of legal challenges to election results. For the first time, this book isolates the distinct problems of presidential elections, ranging from the conflict over federal and state law in Bush v. Gore, to the distinct challenges to the 2020 presidential elections, to the renewed focus on the Electoral Count Act.

The basic structure of the book continues to follow the historical development of the individual right to vote; current struggles over gerrymandering; the relationship of the state to political parties; the constitutional and policy issues surrounding campaign-finance reform; and the tension between majority rule and fair representation of minorities in democratic bodies.

For more information and additional teaching materials, visit the companion site.

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This book created the field of the law of democracy, offering a systematic account of the legal construction of American democracy. This edition represents a significant revision that reflects the embattled state of democracy in the U.S. and abroad.

Samuel Issacharoff
Pamela S. Karlan
Pamela S. Karlan
Nathaniel Persily
Franita Tolson
Book Publisher
Foundation Press
6th Edition

Christopher Giles is a researcher and open-source investigator focusing on information operations, and monitoring conflict and human rights issues.

Prior to joining Stanford University in 2021, Christopher reported on disinformation for BBC News, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election, where his reporting was “highly commended” by the Royal Statistical Society’s Journalism Awards. Christopher is a recipient of the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship and is pursing graduate studies in international policy and journalism.

Researcher, Stanford Internet Observatory
abstract blue image with text Trust and Safety Research Conference

Join us September 29-30 for two days of cross-professional presentations and conversations designed to push forward research on trust and safety.

Hosted at Stanford University’s Frances. C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, the Trust and Safety Research Conference will convene trust and safety practitioners, people in government and civil society, and academics in fields like computer science, sociology, law, and political science to think deeply about trust and safety issues.

Your ticket gives you access to:

  • Two days of talks, panels, workshops, and breakouts
  • Networking opportunities, including happy hours on September 28, 29 and 30th.
  • Breakfast and lunch on September 29 and 30th.

Early bird tickets are $100 for attendees from academia and civil society and $500 for attendees from industry. Ticket prices go up August 1, 2022. Full refunds or substitutions will be honored until August 15, 2022. After August 15, 2022 no refunds will be allowed.

More information is available at: http://www.tsresearchconference.org

For questions, please contact us through internetobservatory@stanford.edu

Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center
326 Galvez Street
Stanford, CA 94305

Melissa De Witte, Taylor Kubota, Ker Than
Taylor Kubota
Ker Than
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During a speech at Stanford University on Thursday, April 21, 2022, former U.S. President Barack Obama presented his audience with a stark choice: “Do we allow our democracy to wither, or do we make it better?”

Over the course of an hour-long address, Obama outlined the threat that disinformation online, including deepfake technology powered by AI, poses to democracy as well as ways he thought the problems might be addressed in the United States and abroad.

“This is an opportunity, it’s a chance that we should welcome for governments to take on a big important problem and prove that democracy and innovation can coexist,” Obama said.

Obama, who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017, was the keynote speaker at a one-day symposium, titled “Challenges to Democracy in the Digital Information Realm,” co-hosted by the Stanford Cyber Policy Center and the Obama Foundation on the Stanford campus on April 21.

The event brought together people working in technology, policy, and academia for panel discussions on topics ranging from the role of government in establishing online trust, the relationship between democracy and tech companies, and the threat of digital authoritarians.

Obama told a packed audience of more than 600 people in CEMEX auditorium – as well as more than 250,000 viewers tuning in online – that everyone is part of the solution to make democracy stronger in the digital age and that all of us – from technology companies and their employees to students and ordinary citizens – must work together to adapt old institutions and values to a new era of information. “If we do nothing, I’m convinced the trends that we’re seeing will get worse,” he said.

Introducing the former president was Michael McFaul, director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama, and Stanford alum and Obama Foundation fellow, Tiana Epps-Johnson, BA ’08.

Epps-Johnson, who is the founder and executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, recalled her time answering calls to an election protection hotline during the 2006 midterm election. She said the experience taught her an important lesson, which was that “the overall health of our democracy, whether we have a voting process that is fair and trustworthy, is more important than any one election outcome.”

Stanford freshman Evan Jackson said afterward that Obama’s speech resonated with him. “I use social media a lot, every day, and I’m always seeing all the fake news that can be spread easily. And I do understand that when you have controversy attached to what you’re saying, it can reach larger crowds,” Jackson said. “So if we do find a way to better contain the controversy and the fake news, it can definitely help our democracy stay powerful for our nation.”

The Promise and Perils Technology Poses to Democracy

In his keynote, Obama reflected on how technology has transformed the way people create and consume media. Digital and social media companies have upended traditional media – from local newspapers to broadcast television, as well as the role these outlets played in society at large.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the American public tuned in to one of three major networks, and while media from those earlier eras had their own set of problems – such as excluding women and people of color – they did provide people with a shared culture, Obama said.

Moreover, these media institutions, with established journalistic best practices for accuracy and accountability, also provided people with similar information: “When it came to the news, at least, citizens across the political spectrum tended to operate using a shared set of facts – what they saw or what they heard from Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley.”

Fast forward to today, where everyone has access to individualized news feeds that are fed by algorithms that reward the loudest and angriest voices (and which technology companies profit from). “You have the sheer proliferation of content, and the splintering of information and audiences,” Obama observed. “That’s made democracy more complicated.”

Facts are competing with opinions, conspiracy theories, and fiction. “For more and more of us, search and social media platforms aren’t just our window into the internet. They serve as our primary source of news and information,” Obama said. “No one tells us that the window is blurred, subject to unseen distortions, and subtle manipulations.”

The splintering of news sources has also made all of us more prone to what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” Obama said. “Inside our personal information bubbles, our assumptions, our blind spots, our prejudices aren’t challenged, they are reinforced and naturally, we’re more likely to react negatively to those consuming different facts and opinions – all of which deepens existing racial and religious and cultural divides.”

But the problem is not just that our brains can’t keep up with the growing amount of information online, Obama argued. “They’re also the result of very specific choices made by the companies that have come to dominate the internet generally, and social media platforms in particular.”

The former president also made clear that he did not think technology was to blame for many of our social ills. Racism, sexism, and misogyny, all predate the internet, but technology has helped amplify them.

“Solving the disinformation problem won’t cure all that ails our democracies or tears at the fabric of our world, but it can help tamp down divisions and let us rebuild the trust and solidarity needed to make our democracy stronger,” Obama said.

He gave examples of how social media has fueled violence and extremism around the world. For example, leaders from countries such as Russia to China, Hungary, the Philippines, and Brazil have harnessed social media platforms to manipulate their populations. “Autocrats like Putin have used these platforms as a strategic weapon against democratic countries that they consider a threat,” Obama said.

He also called out emerging technologies such as AI for their potential to sow further discord online. “I’ve already seen demonstrations of deep fake technology that show what looks like me on a screen, saying stuff I did not say. It’s a strange experience people,” Obama said. “Without some standards, implications of this technology – for our elections, for our legal system, for our democracy, for rules of evidence, for our entire social order – are frightening and profound.”

‘Regulation Has to Be Part of the Answer’

Obama discussed potential solutions for addressing some of the problems he viewed as contributing to a backsliding of democracy in the second half of his talk.

In an apt metaphor for a speech delivered in Silicon Valley, Obama compared the U.S. Constitution to software for running society. It had “a really innovative design,” Obama said, but also significant bugs. “Slavery. You can discriminate against entire classes of people. Women couldn’t vote. Even white men without property couldn’t vote, couldn’t participate, weren’t part of ‘We the People.’”

The amendments to the Constitution were akin to software patches, the former president said, that allowed us to “continue to perfect our union.”

Similarly, governments and technology companies should be willing to introduce changes aimed at improving civil discourse online and reducing the amount of disinformation on the internet, Obama said.

“The internet is a tool. Social media is a tool. At the end of the day, tools don’t control us. We control them. And we can remake them. It’s up to each of us to decide what we value and then use the tools we’ve been given to advance those values,” he said.

The former president put forth various solutions for combating online disinformation, including regulation, which many tech companies fiercely oppose.

“Here in the United States, we have a long history of regulating new technologies in the name of public safety, from cars and airplanes to prescription drugs to appliances,” Obama said. “And while companies initially always complain that the rules are going to stifle innovation and destroy the industry, the truth is that a good regulatory environment usually ends up spurring innovation, because it raises the bar on safety and quality. And it turns out that innovation can meet that higher bar.”

In particular, Obama urged policymakers to rethink Section 230, enacted as part of the United States Communications Decency Act in 1996, which ​​stipulates that generally, online platforms cannot be held liable for content that other people post on their website.

But technology has changed dramatically over the past two decades since Section 230 was enacted, Obama said. “These platforms are not like the old phone company.”

He added: “In some cases, industry standards may replace or substitute for regulation, but regulation has to be part of the answer.”

Obama also urged technology companies to be more transparent in how they operate and “at minimum” should share with researchers and regulators how some of their products and services are designed so there is some accountability.

The responsibility also lies with ordinary citizens, the former president said. “We have to take it upon ourselves to become better consumers of news – looking at sources, thinking before we share, and teaching our kids to become critical thinkers who know how to evaluate sources and separate opinion from fact.”

Obama warned that if the U.S. does not act on these issues, it risks being eclipsed in this arena by other countries. “As the world’s leading democracy, we have to set a better example. We should be able to lead on these discussions internationally, not [be] in the rear. Right now, Europe is forging ahead with some of the most sweeping legislation in years to regulate the abuses that are seen in big tech companies,” Obama said. “Their approach may not be exactly right for the United States, but it points to the need for us to coordinate with other democracies. We need to find our voice in this global conversation.”


Transcript of President Obama's Keynote

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Full-Spectrum Pro-Kremlin Online Propaganda about Ukraine

Narratives from overt propaganda, unattributed Telegram channels, and inauthentic social media accounts
Full-Spectrum Pro-Kremlin Online Propaganda about Ukraine
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At a conference hosted by the Cyber Policy Center and Obama Foundation, former U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the keynote address about how information is created and consumed, and the threat that disinformation poses to democracy.


Join the Stanford Internet Observatory team, lead by Matt Masterson, to discuss two new reports on the events of the 2020 elections. Hear from the authors what important lessons that can be learned for securing future US elections and how we might assure citizens of election integrity.

This event will be livestreamed at 8:30am PT / 11:30am ET on October 14, 2021



Alex Stamos is a cybersecurity expert, business leader and entrepreneur working to improve the security and safety of the Internet through his teaching and research at Stanford University. Stamos is the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory at the Cyber Policy Center, a part of the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he is also a research scholar.

Prior to joining Stanford, Alex served as the Chief Security Officer of Facebook. In this role, Stamos led a team of engineers, researchers, investigators and analysts charged with understanding and mitigating information security risks to the company and safety risks to the 2.5 billion people on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. During his time at Facebook, he led the company’s investigation into manipulation of the 2016 US election and helped pioneer several successful protections against these new classes of abuse. As a senior executive, Alex represented Facebook and Silicon Valley to regulators, lawmakers and civil society on six continents, and has served as a bridge between the interests of the Internet policy community and the complicated reality of platforms operating at billion-user scale. In April 2017, he co-authored “Information Operations and Facebook”, a highly cited examination of the influence campaign against the US election, which still stands as the most thorough description of the issue by a major technology company.

Before joining Facebook, Alex was the Chief Information Security Officer at Yahoo, rebuilding a storied security team while dealing with multiple assaults by nation-state actors. While at Yahoo, he led the company’s response to the Snowden disclosures by implementing massive cryptographic improvements in his first months. He also represented the company in an open hearing of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

In 2004, Alex co-founded iSEC Partners, an elite security consultancy known for groundbreaking work in secure software development, embedded and mobile security. As a trusted partner to world’s largest technology firms, Alex coordinated the response to the “Aurora” attacks by the People’s Liberation Army at multiple Silicon Valley firms and led groundbreaking work securing the world’s largest desktop and mobile platforms. During this time, he also served as an expert witness in several notable civil and criminal cases, such as the Google Street View incident and pro bono work for the defendants in Sony vs George Hotz and US vs Aaron Swartz. After the 2010 acquisition of iSEC Partners by NCC Group, Alex formed an experimental R&D division at the combined company, producing five patents.

A noted speaker and writer, he has appeared at the Munich Security Conference, NATO CyCon, Web Summit, DEF CON, CanSecWest and numerous other events. His 2017 keynote at Black Hat was noted for its call for a security industry more representative of the diverse people it serves and the actual risks they face. Throughout his career, Alex has worked toward making security a more representative field and has highlighted the work of diverse technologists as an organizer of the Trustworthy Technology Conference and OURSA.

Alex has been involved with securing the US election system as a contributor to Harvard’s Defending Digital Democracy Project and involved in the academic community as an advisor to Stanford’s Cybersecurity Policy Program and UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. He is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Cyber Security Task Force, the Bay Area CSO Council and the Council on Foreign Relations. Alex also serves on the advisory board to NATO’s Collective Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia.

Stamos worked under Prof. David Patterson while earning a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and three children.

Director, Stanford Internet Observatory
Matt Masterson

Matt Masterson is a former non-resident policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. He served as Senior Cybersecurity Advisor at the Department of Homeland Security, where he focused on election security issues. He previously served as a Commissioner at the Election Assistance Commission from December 2014 until March 2018, including serving as the Commission’s Chairman in 2017-2018. Prior to that, he held staff positions with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, where he oversaw voting-system certification efforts and helped develop an online voter registration system. Matt holds a law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law and BS and BA degrees from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

As part of his Stanford Internet Observatory fellowship, Matt compiled and published an oral history of the 2020 election, "The Guardians of Democracy."

Former Non-Resident Fellow, Stanford Internet Observatory
Jennifer DePew
Katie Jonsson

Shorenstein APARC

Encina Hall

Stanford University

APARC Predoctoral Fellow, 2021-2022
Stanford Internet Observatory Postdoctoral Fellow, 2022-2023

Tongtong Zhang joins the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) as APARC Predoctoral Fellow for the 2021-2022 academic year. She is a Ph.D candidate at the department of Political Science at Stanford University. Her research focuses on authoritarian deliberation and responsiveness in China.


On January 6, 2021, an armed mob stormed the US Capitol to prevent the certification of what they claimed was a “fraudulent election.” Many Americans were shocked, but they needn’t have been. The January 6 insurrection was the culmination of months of online mis- and disinformation directed toward eroding American faith in the 2020 election.

US elections are decentralized: almost 10,000 state and local election offices are primarily responsible for the operation of elections. Dozens of federal agencies support this effort, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense. However, none of these federal agencies has a focus on, or authority regarding, election misinformation originating from domestic sources within the United States. This limited federal role reveals a critical gap for non-governmental entities to fill. Increasingly pervasive mis- and disinformation, both foreign and domestic, creates an urgent need for collaboration across government, civil society, media, and social media platforms.  

The Election Integrity Partnership, comprising organizations that specialize in understanding those information dynamics, aimed to create a model for whole-of-society collaboration and facilitate cooperation among partners dedicated to a free and fair election. With the narrow aim of defending the 2020 election against voting-related mis- and disinformation, it bridged the gap between government and civil society, helped to strengthen platform standards for combating election-related misinformation, and shared its findings with its stakeholders, media, and the American public. This report details our process and findings, and provides recommendations for future actions.  

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Samantha Bradshaw
Elena Cryst
Renee DiResta
Josh A. Goldstein
Shelby Grossman
Carly Miller
Alex Stamos
David Thiel
Matt Masterson
Jack Cable
Zoe Huczok
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En octobre 2020 se tiendra en Guinée une élection présidentielle cruciale, qui déterminera si le Président Alpha Condé poursuivra son mandat pour une nouvelle décennie, ou si le pays connaîtra le premier changement de régime démocratique de son histoire. L’élection a aussi d’importantes implications économiques pour les investisseurs étrangers en Guinée.

Dans les mois précédant l’élection, nous avons identifié un réseau de 94 Pages Facebook qui relaient, de manière coordonnée, des publications favorables à Condé et à son parti. Ces Pages, qui comptent au total plus de 800 000 abonnés, publient des textes et des images pro-Condé, et promeuvent des vidéos qui proviennent de médias affiliés au gouvernement. Un faisceau d’indices – des événements relatés dans la presse, des pratiques de publication spécifiques, d’autres éléments encore – permet d’établir un lien entre ces Pages et le parti de Condé, le Rassemblement du Peuple Guinéen (RPG). Plus spécifiquement, il établit un lien avec son équipe de “volontaires communicants” (“Volcom” en abrégé), en réalité salariés du RPG. Les administrateurs des Pages du réseau dissimulent leurs véritables identités sous de faux noms comme « Alpha le Démocrate ». Les Pages ne révèlent pas les relations formelles, voire salariées, de leurs auteurs avec le RPG. 

Nous avons partagé une version de cet article, ainsi que les données associées, avec Facebook. Facebook a estimé que les Pages et comptes de ce réseau ne constituent pas une « action inauthentique concertée », et le réseau n’a pas été suspendu. Bien que les activités que nous avons découvertes ne suffisent pas à justifier une action répressive de la part de Facebook, comme la suppression des comptes, ou l’étiquetage des Pages, il nous semble que ces activités ne favorisent pas une vie politique transparente ou des élections équitables. Le cas de la Guinée soulève des questions plus larges : où et comment faire la distinction entre une campagne électorale moderne et des « actions inauthentiques concertées » ?


Alpha Condé est le premier président démocratiquement élu en Guinée et a servi deux mandats de cinq ans depuis sa prise de pouvoir en 2010. En mars 2020, il a tenu un référendum pour approuver une nouvelle constitution qui prévoit, entre autres changements, de fixer de nouvelles limites pour les mandats présidentiels. Sous cette nouvelle Constitution, Condé pourrait demeurer au pouvoir pour douze ans supplémentaires. Des manifestants sont descendus dans la rue dans les mois menant au référendum, parfois réprimés par la force. Ils ont également échangé leurs points de vue sur Facebook, le principal réseau social de Guinée, qui compte deux millions de comptes pour environ treize millions d’habitants. Le parti au pouvoir et l’opposition utilisent tous deux Facebook comme la principale plateforme de diffusion de leur communication politique. Cela fait de Facebook un forum clé pour influencer les électeurs et créer l'illusion de soutiens spontanés.

Le réseau des Volcom du RPG

Le réseau de Pages du RPG n’est ni petit, ni discret. Nous avons identifié deux des principales Pages de ce réseau, parce qu’elles sont parmi les seules à placer des publicités politiques en Guinée (comme cela est consigné dans la bibliothèque de publicités de Facebook, la Facebook Ad Library). Il nous est vite apparu évident que des dizaines d’autres Pages et Groupes interagissent avec ces Pages, de façon coordonnée : des publications et des images identiques, diffusées par des comptes qui présentent souvent la même photo de profil.

Publication vantant les barrages hydroélectriques construits par Condé.
Image 1 : Publication vantant les barrages hydroélectriques construits par Condé.

La plupart du contenu de ces Pages fait l’éloge de la politique et du caractère du président Alpha Condé dans un style journalistique soutenu, avec une syntaxe et un vocabulaire sophistiqués. Certaines publications font référence à des faits précis, émaillés de chiffres et d’autres éléments de preuve. Par exemple, une publication du groupe « Guinéens, ouvrez les yeux » (également retrouvée sur six autres Pages du réseau) célèbre la construction de barrages hydroélectriques par le président Condé, dont un barrage controversé financé par la Chine (Image 1).

Au cours de notre enquête dans ce réseau visiblement organisé, nous avons trouvé des articles de presse sur les individus régulièrement identifiés dans les publications du réseau. L’attention des médias de focalise sur les « Volontaires Communicants » (ou « Volcom ») un groupe de communicants politiques employés et salariés par le RPG pour promouvoir Condé et sa politique.   De nombreux membres des Volcom parlent librement de leurs activités. Par exemple, Korbonya Balde se présente sur son compte Facebook comme travaillant pour la « Cellule de Communication du RPG Arc-en-Ciel ». Balde a été arrêté en 2018 pour incitation à la haine raciale et à la violence envers les opposants politiques du RPG sur les réseaux sociaux. En février, les Volcom ont entamé une grève pour dénoncer leurs conditions de travail – un événement qui, d’après nos sources guinéennes, a suscité une attention considérable parmi l’élite guinéenne. 

La couverture médiatique de la grève des Volcom a mis en exergue une partie de leurs soutiens au sein du gouvernement guinéen, suggérant que Albert Damantang Camara, Ministre de la Sécurité et la Protection Civile, Hadja Aissatou Béla Diallo, ministre conseillère chargée de mission auprès du président, Madina Thiam (la fille de Diallo) et Souleimane Keita, un membre influent du parti et conseiller présidentiel, financent collectivement les Volcom. 

Bien que l’organigramme des Volcom ne soit pas public, au moins deux de leurs membres semblent avoir une influence notable au sein du groupe. Ibrahima Kallo est désigné par d’autres utilisateurs Facebook et plusieurs médias comme « le chef des Volcom ». Il a récemment été nommé comme attaché auprès de Diakara Koulibaly, Ministre des Hydrocarbures. Sa présence sur les réseaux sociaux (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat) est prolifique. Il semble aussi avoir un accès privilégié à Condé, comme plusieurs images et liens d’identification (tags) l’attestent. Charles Kolie, mieux connu sous son alias Facebook « Continuité Continuité » semble également avoir un rôle de coordinateur au sein de Volcom. Une biographie publiée sur Facebook affirme que Kolie a rempli plusieurs fonctions au sein du RPG jusqu’en 2007, et qu’il est coordinateur national de Volcom depuis 2018.

Sur la base de ces éléments, nous avons élaboré des critères pour établir des liens entre les Pages pro-Condé que nous avons découvertes et les Volcom. Nous attribuons une Page aux Volcom avec un haut niveau de certitude si elle satisfait au moins deux de ces critères :

  • Les Volcoms sont mentionnés explicitement, dans des publications ou dans les informations de la Page. Cela passe souvent par l’usage de mots-dièse comme #Volcom_rpg_AEC ou #Volcoms.

  • Des membres de Volcom sont identifiés dans des publications de la Page, ou des publications de membres des Volcom sont reprises sur la Page, ou les publications de la Page sont régulièrement reprises par des membres des Volcom.

  • Au moins une publication (texte ou image) a été recopiée directement depuis une autre Page. Dans au moins un sous-ensemble de Pages, nous avons remarqué que les heures de publication et le contenu étaient très largement coordonnés.

  • Des similitudes dans les métadonnées des Pages, notamment la date de création de la page, la date de mise à jour des photos de profil, l’adresse email ou téléphonique de contact, ou encore la localisation de l’administrateur.

Exemples de Pages du réseau Volcom.
Image 2 : Exemples de Pages du réseau Volcom.

Nous avons identifié 94 Pages que nous attribuons avec un haut niveau de certitude au réseau Volcom. La plupart des Pages du réseau ont été créées à la fin de 2019 ou au début de 2020, et vingt-cinq d’entre elles ont été créées le 27 mars 2020. La plupart des Pages ont entre plusieurs centaines et plusieurs milliers d’abonnés, et quatorze en ont au moins 10 000 (voir les exemples de deux pages dans l’Image 1). La plus importante (« Le coin des guinéens ») a plus de 352 000 abonnés, ce qui pourrait suggérer que presqu’un utilisateur Facebook guinéen sur cinq est abonné à cette Page. Aucune des Pages ne déclare que son contenu émane d’employés du parti RPG ou du gouvernement. Par exemple, dans sa section « A propos », la Page « Guinéens, Ouvrez les Yeux » déclare seulement être « une page créée par des analystes dans le but de dénoncer, critiquer et apporter des solutions sur les différentes mutations de la Guinée ».

Exemple de publications identiques dont la diffusion est coordonnée.
Image 3 : Exemple de publications identiques dont la diffusion est coordonnée.

Le réseau présente des formes de coordination, y compris la répétition de publications parfaitement identiques à travers plusieurs Pages. Par exemple, la publication en Image 3, qui critique le Front National pour la Défense de la Constitution (FNDC), une coalition de partis d’opposition guinéens, a été publiée presque simultanément le 31 mai sur au moins trois Pages Facebook : à 9h58 sur « Le Forum Républicain », à 10h00 sur « Guinéens, Changeons de Mentalité » et sur « Allons au référendum dans la paix et la concorde ». Plus tard ce même jour, la même publication est apparue sur deux autres Pages du réseau, « Le coin des guinéens » et « Pr Alpha Condé Pour Tous ». 

Activité de publication, Ensemble 1. En surligné, la période de 3 semaines au cours de laquelle la coordination est la plus marquée.
Image 4 : Activité de publication, Ensemble 1. En surligné, la période de 3 semaines au cours de laquelle la coordination est la plus marquée.

Une telle activité de publication coordonnée est fréquente parmi les Pages du réseau. Nous avons identifié deux ensembles de Pages au sein du réseau qui présentent des activités de publication hautement coordonnées. L’ensemble 1 (Image 4) comprend 15 Pages qui publient régulièrement le même contenu approximativement à la même heure. Ces Pages ont 185 000 abonnés au total, ce qui représente 23 pourcents des abonnés du réseau général. Dix de ces Pages ont un seul administrateur, localisé en Turquie, ce qui pourrait suggérer qu’un même individu ou entreprise pourrait être impliqué dans la gestion de ces Pages. Par ailleurs, sept autres Pages ont également un administrateur en Turquie, ce qui porte le total à dix-sept Pages dans le réseau. Bien que d’autres Pages au sein du réseau aient des administrateurs dans des pays étrangers, comme les Etats-Unis, la France, le Maroc, l’Espagne et l’Inde, le nombre de Pages administrées depuis la Turquie est bien plus important.

Ensemble 2, Activité de publication coordonnée.
Image 5 : Ensemble 2, Activité de publication coordonnée.

L’ensemble 2 (Image 5) comprend 14 plus petites Pages avec 2896 abonnés au total. Toutes les Pages de cet ensemble ont été créées les 26 et 27 mars 2020. A juger par leur faible nombre d’abonnés et d’interactions, nous faisons l’hypothèse que les Pages de cet ensemble sont encore en train de construire leur audience, ou qu’elles servent à grossir les statistiques d’interaction d’autres Pages. Leurs activités de publication sont gérées de manière parallèle, ce qui suggère que des techniques d’automatisation sont utilisées pour gérer ces Pages. 

Outre leurs activités de publication coordonnées, ces Pages ont tendance à partager les publications de deux médias vidéo liés au RPG : Alpha Condé TV et 224Minutes (à noter, la Page de 224Minutes a été retirée de Facebook en septembre 2020, peu avant la publication de cet article). La presse guinéenne attribue la direction d’Alpha Condé TV à Madina Thiam, également marraine des Volcom. 224Minutes a précédemment été épinglé par les plateformes de réseaux sociaux pour des violations de leurs conditions d’utilisation : son premier compte Twitter a été suspendu, et Facebook bloque tous les liens extérieurs vers 224minutes.net, affichant le message suivant : « Le lien auquel vous avez tenté d'accéder est contraire à nos Standards de la Communauté ». Sur les Pages Facebook d’Alpha Condé TV et 224Minutes, plusieurs publications présentent un nombre de partages particulièrement élevé au regard de leurs mentions « j’aime », ce qui est suspect. Une publication récente d’Alpha Condé TV, par exemple, a seulement 96 mentions « j’aime » et 67 commentaires mais a été partagée 4000 fois dans les 16 heures.

Exemples de comptes utilisant Condé ou Poutine comme photos de profil.
Image 6 : Exemples de comptes utilisant Condé ou Poutine comme photos de profil.

Les Pages des Volcom sont largement diffusées grâce à un réseau de comptes Facebook géré par les communicants du RPG. La plupart des utilisateurs qui « aiment », commentent ou partagent les Pages du réseau publient presqu’exclusivement du contenu sur Condé sur leurs propres profils personnels. Plusieurs d’entre eux ont les mêmes portraits de Vladimir Poutine ou de Condé comme photos de profil et de couverture (Image 6, Alpha Mon Choix et Politologue Traoré). Certains de ces comptes se présentent comme employés par le RPG Arc-en-Ciel, le parti de Condé.

Exemple d'utilisateur partageant une même publication Volcom dans plusieurs groupes.
Image 7 : Exemple d'utilisateur partageant une même publication Volcom dans plusieurs groupes.

Ces utilisateurs partagent des contenus issus des Pages du réseau sur leurs propres journaux ou sur des Groupes : les comptes individuels partagent souvent la même publication de nombreuses fois (Image 7). Ils relaient ces publications dans des Groupes neutres, ou même d’opposition, qui ne sont pas contrôlés par Volcom, touchant ainsi un plus grand nombre de Guinéens. Bien que ces utilisateurs se livrent à des activités de publication coordonnées et que plusieurs utilisent clairement de faux noms, il ne s’agit pas nécessairement d’identités complètement fictives. Ainsi, les photos de ces comptes semblent bien être d’une seule et même personne, engagée dans diverses activités, souvent politiques. De plus, nous n’interprétons pas la prolifération de photos de Poutine comme un signe d’interférence russe. Ce phénomène semble plutôt motivé par le parallèle entre Condé et Poutine, qui a également légitimé un changement à la constitution de son pays pour demeurer au pouvoir. En utilisant l’image de Poutine, les soutiens de Condé évoquent les deux décennies de Poutine en Russie comme un modèle de la stabilité et de la continuité auxquelles ils aspirent pour la Guinée.

Des liens avec l'étranger: la Turquie

Publications favorables à Albayrak, issues de Pages du réseau Volcom.
Image 8 : Publications favorables à Albayrak, issues de Pages du réseau Volcom.

Etant donné le nombre important de pages gérées par des administrateurs turcs (ou basés en Turquie), nous avons analysé les comportements de publication sur les sujets d’intérêt pour la Turquie. Le réseau des Volcom (y compris les Pages sans administrateur turc) a publié plusieurs articles au sujet d’un conglomérat turc étroitement lié à Condé : le groupe Albayrak, présidé par Ahmet Calik, allié proche d’Erdogan, et précédemment dirigé par Berat Albayrak, gendre d’Erdogan. Les publications mentionnent Albayrak en termes positifs, célébrant les dons d’Albayrak à la Guinée durant la crise du Covid-19 (avec une vidéo du groupe Albayrak) et la mise en place d’un service de collecte de déchets à Conakry (Image 8).

Photo de Condé et Calik, publiée par un membre éminent des Volcom
Image 9 : Photo de Condé et Calik, publiée par un membre éminent des Volcom.

En outre, les membres des Volcom rapportent certaines réunions au sommet entre les dirigeants d’Albayrak et l’administration Condé, comme l’illustre cette photo de Condé en discussion avec Ahmet Calik le 30 octobre 2019, postée par Ibrahima Kallo sur Twitter (Image 9). Dans la publication sont identifiés deux ministres du gouvernement Condé, deux membres de Volcom, et le président-directeur général du Fonds d’Entretien Routier. Cette même année, Albayrak a remporté un contrat pour prolonger un segment de route vers le Port Autonome de Conakry.

L'avion privé de Condé (numéro de série TC-VTN), prêté par Erdogan.
Image 10 : L'avion privé de Condé (numéro de série TC-VTN), un prêt d'Erdogan.

Les présidents Erdogan et Condé ont également de très bonnes relations personnelles. Erdogan fut l’un des rares dirigeants internationaux à exprimer son soutien à Condé en envoyant des félicitations officielles après le référendum de mars 2010. Erdogan a également prêté un avion privé à Condé, que Condé utilise à présent comme son avion officiel (Image 11). Un suivi de l’activité récente de l’avion révèle au moins quatre aller-retours entre la Guinée et la Turquie dans la seule seconde moitié de 2019.

Cependant, quoique quelques indices semblent désigner un lien entre les contenus des Volcom et les intérêts officiels de la Turquie, nous n’avons pas pu déterminer l’identité de l’administrateur turc des Pages des Volcom, ni trouver des preuves directes d’une implication turque dans ce réseau.

L'influence des Volcom sur la politique guinéenne

Nous avons contacté plusieurs journalistes et guinéens politiquement engagés pour comprendre dans quelle mesure les Pages des Volcom influencent la politique guinéenne, et combien il était plausible qu’elles convainquent les électeurs à l’orée de l’élection présidentielle d’octobre, ou d’exacerber les tensions entre groupes ethniques en Guinée. De nombreuses sources guinéennes ont confirmé que Volcom est financé par le parti du président et que les principaux partis d’opposition en Guinée utilisent aussi des réseaux sociaux et diffusent de la désinformation ou de la mésinformation. Par exemple, d’après certaines de nos sources, l’opposition aurait prétendu qu’Alpha Condé était traité pour le Covid-19 à l’étranger, ce qui s’est avéré faux. Cependant, bien que nous ayons trouvé des Pages soutenant l’opposition guinéenne avec des dizaines ou des centaines d’abonnés, aucune ne présentait un système de publication coordonné. Nos sources affirment que la désinformation en ligne (aussi appelée « intoxication » en Guinée) est un élément si crucial du jeu politique qu’aucun parti ne peut se permettre de s’en abstraire.

La propagande politique et la désinformation en Guinée sont loin d’être inoffensives. Nos sources ont déploré l’illettrisme digital en Guinée, qui rend la population très susceptible à la propagande sur internet. « C’est un immense problème en Guinée. Tout ce que les gens voient sur Facebook, ils s’imaginent que c’est la réalité. Il y a aussi beaucoup plus de fausses informations et de fausses actualités en Guinée. » Plusieurs de nos contacts ont exprimé la crainte qu’en nourrissant l’antagonisme entre partis, la désinformation n’accentue les tensions entre les groupes ethniques Peuls et Mandinka. Une série d’articles de presse sur les Volcom se focalise sur une affaire de 2018, dans laquelle des communicants du RPG et de l’UFDG ont été arrêtés pour incitation à la violence.

Que faire pour limiter la propagande digitale en Guinée ?

Nos contacts en Guinée sont sceptiques quant à l’efficacité d’une nouvelle régulation contre la désinformation. Comme une personne l’a évoqué, «Notre Constitution mentionne la cybercriminalité et prévoit des sanctions ; mais la mise en application, comme dans tous les domaines, pêche. » Ils ont souvent cité le besoin d’impliquer plus activement la société civile : « Il nous faut une société civile très dynamique et ouverte. Si aucun organisme indépendant ne contrôle l’action gouvernementale, la société civile doit garantir la transparence. » D’autres ont mis en exergue l’importance de formations en communication digitale pour le public.

Cependant, la construction d’une société civile robuste, ou l’amélioration de l’éducation en matière digitale, prendront du temps. Alors que la Guinée se prépare pour une élection décisive, le parti au pouvoir a déjà construit l’infrastructure Facebook nécessaire pour mener des campagnes de propagande grande ampleur en faveur d’un troisième mandat du Président Condé. Nous voyons cette opération comme un cas d’espèce d’une campagne politique qui – intentionnellement ou non – met au jour des zones grises dans les politiques de Facebook. Facebook juge que ce réseau ne remplit pas les critères d’une « action inauthentique concertée », mais nous croyons que le manque de transparence du réseau sur ses affiliations avec le parti au pouvoir est incompatible avec l’idéal démocratique d’une campagne électorale. 

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Nous avons enquêté sur un large réseau de pages Facebook opérées par le parti du président guinéen Alpha Condé. Les Pages orchestrent des publications qui soutiennent la candidature de Condé à un troisième mandat, et sont gérées sous des noms d'emprunt.

Anna Gielewska
Maciej Kurzynski
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For a broader look at the upcoming Polish election, its stakes and major figures, see our scene-setter.

On May 10, 2020 Polish voters will head to the polls for the first round of Poland’s presidential election. SIO has been following key narratives across Facebook Pages and Groups in order to get a better understanding of the role of social media in this important European election. In this post we compare candidate coverage on mainstream Polish news outlets’ Facebook Pages to the larger Facebook landscape. We observe that content related to far-right candidates makes up a greater percentage of general Facebook content than of content on mainstream outlets’ Pages, and that this greater portion is matched by greater engagement. There are several ways to interpret this. On the one hand, the mainstream media may be reluctant to give far-right candidates press, and thus their coverage may not reflect the candidates’ true level of support among the electorate. On the other hand, there is evidence that far-right Pages have been especially successful in boosting engagement on Facebook—often by posting content simultaneously across networks of Pages. To this end, we show how one far-right network uses 17 Pages and a handful of content farms to boost its candidate in the election. 

Poland has a two-round presidential election; the first vote on May 10 will determine which two candidates advance to the second round on May 24, unless one candidate receives an absolute majority (in which case, he or she will be declared the victor). The frontrunner, incumbent President Andrzej Duda of the PiS (Law and Justice) party, has reached the 50% mark in only one opinion poll, making a second round quite likely. Polls have tightened in recent weeks, suggesting that Duda’s main rivals—Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska of the centrist Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, or PO), Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz of the Christian-Democratic Polish People’s Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, or PSL), and independent candidate Szymon Hołownia—have a better chance at surpassing Duda than was previously thought. Several polls show that a second round election between Duda and one of his rivals could come down to just a few percentage points. (Other polls from mid-February, on the other hand, suggest that Duda’s lead is relatively safe).

Political Narratives on Facebook

Within this political environment, Facebook plays an increasingly important role. According to Statista, over 1.5 million Poles have joined Facebook in the last year, and spending on political ads—while capped at 19.4 million PLN by Polish law—continues to rise on Facebook.

To better understand how the Polish citizen-driven political landscape on Facebook compares to that of more traditional political media in Poland—such as newspapers, magazines, and television—we compared political content on a set of diverse Polish “mainstream media” Facebook Pages to political content across Facebook.1 We collected posts that mentioned the presidential candidates, limiting posts to those that were written in Polish, and including searches for all the grammatical cases in which the candidates’ names could appear.

mentions of presidential candidates on mainstream Facebook pages

Number of Facebook posts referring to candidates’ names by day from Nov 1, 2019—the week after parliamentary elections were held—to March 5, 2020, on Polish “mainstream” media Pages. Data courtesy of CrowdTangle.

The results for Polish “mainstream media” Pages are not surprising and generally track with polling: Duda, both a 2020 candidate and the sitting president, receives substantially more coverage than any other candidate; but the amount of content referring to other candidates has increased in recent months as well. Duda’s principal rival, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, receives the second most mentions, followed by Hołownia, Biedroń, Kosiniak-Kamysz, and Bosak, in that order.2 There are visible spikes on the days when candidates entered the race: Dec 8 (Hołownia), Dec 14 (Kidawa-Błońska), and Jan 18 (Bosak).

The picture on Facebook more broadly—including, but not limited to, the “mainstream media” Pages—looks somewhat different.

Number of Facebook posts referring to candidates’ names by day from Nov 1, 2019 to March 5, 2020 across all Pages and Groups visible to CrowdTangle

Number of Facebook posts referring to candidates’ names by day from Nov 1, 2019 to March 5, 2020 across all Pages and Groups visible to CrowdTangle. Data courtesy of CrowdTangle.

Duda and Kidawa-Błońska remain in the two top positions, in terms of total mentions, but there are changes below them: in particular, the far-right candidate from Konfederacja, Krzysztof Bosak, jumps from sixth to third. This suggests that the far right is better represented across Facebook than in Polish “mainstream” media Facebook Pages. 

One could object that these are just mention totals, and that this does not indicate that users are actually engaging with the content. Perhaps Bosak-aligned Pages are simply spinning up content irrespective of engagement. As the figure below shows, however, Bosak remains in third when we add up the total interactions—like, love, angry, wow, etc.—that posts referring to candidates receive. The far-right candidate does consistently better in terms of drawing reactions from Facebook users than the other three low-polling candidates:

Running sum of interactions on Posts referring to candidates’ names from Nov 1, 2019 to March 5, 2020 across all Pages and Groups visible to CrowdTangle

Running sum of interactions on Posts referring to candidates’ names from Nov 1, 2019 to March 5, 2020 across all Pages and Groups visible to CrowdTangle. Data courtesy of CrowdTangle.

This is not true of candidate-related content on Polish “mainstream media” Facebook Pages, where the enthusiasm of Bosak’s and Biedroń’s supporters does not seem to compensate for the mainstream Pages’ tendency to publish about them less often:

Running sum of interactions on Posts referring to candidates’ names from Nov 1, 2019 to March 5, 2020 across “mainstream” Pages

Running sum of interactions on Posts referring to candidates’ names from Nov 1, 2019 to March 5, 2020 across “mainstream” Pages. Data courtesy of CrowdTangle.

The fact that Bosak-related (i.e., far-right) content makes up a greater proportion of content across Facebook than on “mainstream” Polish media Pages, and the fact that the engagement rates for this far-right content are also disproportionate, suggest that Polish politics on Facebook differs from Polish politics in “mainstream” Polish media in at least one way: it skews to the right. Other researchers have found evidence of a similar rightward skew on Twitter. Of course, Bosak’s increased presence in Facebook-wide content could be explained in a number of ways:

  • Polish users could on the whole be more conservative than the “mainstream” Pages’ content suggests, and tracking activity on Facebook merely gives us a more accurate idea of people’s actual preferences;

  • The audiences of far-right Pages could be more active in creating content and engaging with it than other segments of the population;

  • The far-right Pages could be amplifying their content more successfully than Pages in other parts of the political spectrum.

While we cannot address explanations one and two, a closer look at these Pages’ activity shows that explanation three appears to be an important contributor to the Pages’ engagement rates. Over the past two months, we have found that—while all sides of the political spectrum try to boost engagement with their messaging—the Polish far right has been particularly aggressive in its efforts to amplify its content, often using highly coordinated tactics.

How a Far-Right Network Amplifies Its Content on Facebook

One of the networks that we observed successfully spreading far-right content in a coordinated manner is a collection of Pages we call “Pantarhei” [from Heraclitus: “Everything flows”], after one of the URLs it frequently promotes. (In our next blog post, we’ll cover other, larger networks and describe in more detail how they function.)

The “Pantarhei” network consists of approximately 17 Pages, most of them created between 2015 and 2017, and with as few as 1,000 and as many as 260,000 followers. The Page names are nationalist in character: “I love Poland,” “I don’t want the Islamization of Europe,” “I choose Poland,” and so forth.

The “Stop islamizacji Europy” [“Stop the Islamization of Europe”] Page, part of the “Pantarhei” network.
The “Stop islamizacji Europy” [“Stop the Islamization of Europe”] Page, part of the “Pantarhei” network. 

The Pages push Islamophobic, anti-US, anti-immigrant, and anti-Semitic content and boost Konfederacja politicians and causes, including Bosak’s presidential run. To this end, they also post content attacking Law and Justice and Civic Platform from the right and argue for leaving the European Union. Four content farms provide the majority of the network’s content:

  • Wprawo.pl: a nationalist site managed by Jacek Międlar, a former priest and far-right activist; pushes nationalist and anti-Ukrainian themes (~28.5% of urls—here and below, over the past three months)

  • Pantarhei24.com: appropriates and translates news from non-Polish-language websites; anti-immigrant focus (~21% of urls)

  • Magnapolonia.org - a right-wing news site; focus on foreign policy (especially related to the Middle East) (~15.8% of urls)

  • Dzienniknarodowy.pl: a right-wing news-site related to “Roty Niepodległości” (“Legions of Independence”), a highly-organized nationalist group, and Marsz Niepodległości (“March of Independence”), the biggest annual patriotic demonstration taking place in Warsaw, accused of promoting extremist views (~9.3% of urls)


One function of these content farms is to provide Facebook-ready content which entices viewers back to the websites, where they are shown ads (and often petitioned for financial support through Paypal or other means). In this respect, networks like “Pantarhei” have a spam-like quality: they revolve around clickbait. Since the quality of the individual pieces of content themselves is not as important as their political slant or the overall commercial outcome, the Posts do not typically perform very well: the average interaction rate for outbound links (the type of Post that makes money for the operators) in the “Pantarhei” network from December 2019 to March 2020 was 0.15%. But the network operators can make up for this shortcoming by cranking out content in huge quantities and by posting it simultaneously across many purportedly independent Facebook Pages:

A misleading anti-immigrant article appearing on nine “Pantarhei” Pages at exactly 11:42am on March 6, 2020. This post got 243 reactions, 47 comments, and 83 shares across all “Pantarhei” Pages.

A misleading anti-immigrant article appearing on nine “Pantarhei” Pages at exactly 11:42am on March 6, 2020. This post got 243 reactions, 47 comments, and 83 shares across all “Pantarhei” Pages. 

This mass dissemination strategy allows the Page owners to compensate for the vagaries of Facebook’s algorithm, which tends to rank outbound links lower than photos or other on-platform content, and potentially to reach more followers—in this case, over 550,000, the combined followers of these 17 Pages—than any single Page in the network can reach. At the same time, the content appears organically popular, as if the Page administrators each simply happened to choose it that day, concealing the true coordinated nature of the Page from the audience. The user, seeing only one small corner of the network, has little indication that they are seeing content from a larger campaign. It is not clear whether these amplification tactics, described by Avaaz in a 2019 report on far-right networks on Facebook and covered by SIO in reports on Taiwan and a Kosovo-based network, run afoul of Facebook’s community standards on coordination and inauthentic behavior.

The “Pantarhei” network operators do not create much of the content they share. Instead, they copy and refurbish photos and articles from other news websites, and post the content as their own. The photo for the article shown above, for instance, was taken from the New York Post; a recent anti-immigration article in the network was reappropriated from kresy.pl, another right-wing news site. This content theft allows a handful of website operators to crank out a large amount of content. From March 2 to March 9, 2020, the 17 Pages in the “Pantarhei” network posted 1,800 outbound links, or over fifteen per day per Page. Of these links, 66% appeared across multiple Pages in the network.

If it is true, as the post-count data suggest, that Polish politics on Facebook skews to the right of Polish “mainstream media,” one of the reasons for this difference might be the tactics far-right networks like “Pantarhei” use to amplify their content. The frequency with which such networks post Bosak-related content—across many Pages, occasionally multiple times—could account for the discrepancy in candidate-related content we note above.

Since mere mentions don’t translate to electoral success, it is worth asking: do Bosak’s high engagement numbers on Facebook increase his chances in the real world? There are many complex factors at work, but polls suggest that Bosak—consistently polling between 3 and 5%—has not seen any significant electoral boost from his popularity on Facebook. 

While a thorough analysis of the role of Facebook in the Polish election will have to wait until after the voters go to the polls, we continue to observe these amplification tactics being used to influence the Polish electorate. In our next blog post, we will examine a series of larger, more influential networks and describe in greater detail their tactics and organization.

1. “Across Facebook” refers in this case, and in the references that follow, to all of the Pages and Groups that are visible to CrowdTangle, Facebook’s social-analytics platform, which we used to analyze Facebook activity. The “mainstream media” list consists of the Facebook Pages for: 300Polityka, DoRzeczy, dziennik.pl, FAKT24.pl, Gazeta Wyborcza, Gazeta.pl, gazetaprawna.pl, Interia, Newsweek Polska, Niezalezna.pl, Onet, Polityka, polsatnews.pl, Polska Agencja Prasowa, Polskatimes.pl, PolskieRadio24.pl, Radio TOK FM, Radio ZET, RMF FM, Rzeczpospolita, se.pl, Telewizja Republika, TVN24, tvp.info, Tygodnik Sieci, Wirtualna Polska, wPolityce.pl, and WPROST.

2. It’s important to note that these figures refer only to mentions, positive or negative; a high figure for a given candidate does not mean that they are being boosted, as critical posts are counted alongside supportive commentary.

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