South Korea held a nation-wide election amidst this COVID-19 global pandemic on April 15, 2020. Despite the challenges, the election recorded a historic 66.2% voter turnout, the highest in three decades for a parliamentary election. Twitter’s role was even more critical as campaigns went virtual and people relied more than ever on online information. As such, Twitter’s mission of serving the public conversation remained core, and we ensured Twitter supported the participatory discussion every step of this election cycle.
Protecting the integrity of the #KoreanElection2020 conversation on Twitter
In preparation, Twitter verified the accounts of 10 different regional election commissions, five political parties, and 94 candidates so that people could check the authenticity of information on the service. Two days prior to the election, @TwitterKorea also announced the official Twitter accounts of 140 candidates from eleven political parties and also the nine political party accounts that had also joined the live national conversation. By following these accounts, people were able to receive the latest updates including candidates’ pledges and campaign schedules, or to send a Twitter mention or direct message (DM) to ask questions.
Fighting platform manipulation and spam was a high priority. In the service of protecting the integrity of the election conversation, Twitter partnered with the Korean National Election Commission (@necmedia2017) to tackle issues such as deliberate election disinformation and clear violations of the Twitter Rules. Throughout the cycle we took enforcement action against bad-faith accounts who tried to manipulate the service and spread misinformation around the election.
Empowering and amplifying the election conversation
To help support and drive the public's interest in the election on Twitter, we launched a custom emoji 20 days prior to the election day in partnership with the National Election Commission. The emoji symbolized the voting stamp and was automatically generated by hashtags #KoreanElection, #KoreanElection2020, #투표(Voting), #투표인증(ProofOfVoting), #투표하세요(PleaseVote), #투표했어요(IVoted), #21대국회의원선거(21stLegislativeElection), and #415총선(April15Election). From March 25 through April 25, a total of 90,109 conversations were recorded using the emoji.
Government agencies also made important election announcements on Twitter as the election was held during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The National Election Commission and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (@withyou3542) both shared the code of conduct for safe voting and received positive feedback from citizens.
During the month in the lead up to the election, a total of 3.8 million Tweets related to the election were generated from candidate campaigns to “#IVoted” selfies. On the weekend prior to the election, which was reserved for early voting, we saw 380,000 election-related Tweets and a record high voter turnout of 26.69%, the highest since the advance voting system was adopted for nationwide elections in 2014.
The electoral reform in December 2019 lowered the legal voting age from 19 to 18 years old. 18-year-old voters shared the excitement of voting for the first time on Twitter. Civil society groups, especially youth organizations, drove conversations around this milestone and encouraged voting for all age groups and even ran a straw vote project for those aged below 18 to encourage participation in the civic engagement.
On election day, more than 1.1 million related keywords were mentioned on Twitter with election-related terms dominating Trends. The most mentioned keyword in Korea was “개표방송(Ballot Counting Broadcast)” -- the country’s reputation for high-quality CGI graphics during vote counting proved true once again in this election where candidates were depicted as characters on a competitive duck boat ride, or even on a boxing match.
The second most Tweeted keyword was “투표완료(Voting Complete)”, followed by “#Korea_wants_justice”, “어르신들(The Elderly)”, and “비닐장갑(Plastic Gloves)”. “비닐장갑(Plastic Gloves)” trended because voters were asked to put on disposable plastic gloves as a precautionary measure against viruses upon arriving at polling stations around the country.
The live vote counting on Twitter by MBC News (@mbcnews) and Arirang TV (@arirangworld, @ArirangTVnews) also received much attention among global audiences and garnered over 1.1 million cumulative views in total.
To highlight interesting global content about the election that received global attention, TwitterMoments (@TwitterMoments) curated six Moments in English, Japanese and Portuguese.
Celebrities’ voting Tweets also drew attention from all over the world, particularly the millenial and Gen-Z dominated #Kpop fan base. BTS again proved its popularity when member 'Suga' Tweeted about his vote with a photo on the official BTS Twitter account (@BTS_twt). This Tweet alone was retweeted 490,000 times, got 1.64 million likes, and then became the 'Most Retweeted I Voted Selfie Tweet' during this election.
Given the role and importance in popular culture #Kpop plays, its noteworthy that so many celebrities also joined the election conversation and showed their civic support; Sandara Park (@krungy21), Golden Child (@Hi_Goldenness), NCT DREAM (@NCTsmtown_DREAM), Rocket Punch (@RCPC_members), and Gong Minji (@mingkki21) also shared their “Proof of Voting” Tweets.
The voting public also Tweeted their proof-of-voting photos. In the past people would receive a stamp on their hands, this time they shared their photos wearing masks and plastic gloves, or observing the strict social distancing protocols of 1-meter (3-feet) apart while at the polls.
Protecting the public conversation continues to be Twitter’s top priority. We will continue to work to protect conversations on the service, particularly around election cycles, by investing in technology, developing new policies, and building meaningful partnerships to further our understanding of the political and social context within which Twitter operates.