Social networks have become a center of civil society, where public opinion is being formed. Besides that, they are the main source of news, and have even ousted printed mass media and television. As for the impact of social networks on election campaigns, they play a decisive role here. Each citizen is influenced by various factors when making the choice in an election: mass media, campaigning of candidates/parties, the closest environment (family/work/friends). This list was supplemented by social networks over the last decade. Social networks like Facebook narrow the distance between a politician and a voter, create feedback mechanisms, and become a new, horizontal environment for communications. Political advertising also switches from outdoor advertising and TVs to internet, which opens the doors to the needed audience (age, location, financial restrictions etc.).

Recent election campaigns in Europe and USA demonstrate that social networks are widely used for online campaigning: engaging with voters, raising funds for a campaign, shaping a political image, and placing political advertising. Social networks have the following pluses when they are used in election campaigns:: quick and easy publication of information; prompt feedback; low expenses on advertising (compared to outdoor advertising and mass media); wide involvement of politically active audience, which can organize campaigning efforts without a centralized influence, but through opinion leaders; efficient way of informing the voters about important events, personal visits, political events, actions and protests; bright platform for personal presentation for politicians and formation of their political image; free from censorship. The horizontal structure of social networks reveals new opportunities for interaction of citizens. Information platforms allow both to exchange and to create political content with free access. Besides that, they help to find like-minded people. When citizens communicate with politicians through social networks, they get a sense of involvement in the process of making political decisions.

As a result, social networks perform the following functions [1] during an election campaign:

1) informational (dissemination of information about politicians and political parties);

2) communication (organization of interaction with voters, what allows to quickly determine their attitude to a candidate);

3) image (forming the image of candidates / parties);

4) advertising and marketing (distribution of political advertising, finding target audience, electorate);

5) mobilization (mobilizing supporters to come and vote in the elections, involving voters in protest actions);

6) socialization (conducting opinion surveys, involving voters in decision-making);

7) control over the election campaign (prompt informing the citizens about vote count, compliance with the vote count procedure, protection of the results).

Speaking about minuses of such widely developed social networks, we should mention the emergence of political information wars, both national and international ones. Politicians hire armies of online bots that distribute custom information, false rumors, and materials that discredit competitors. Besides that, there are also paid "positive" comments on individual candidates. States can use social networks to influence an election campaign externally. This influence can be both positive (supporting fair election, observation of electoral procedures) and negative (virus attacks, unauthorized interference, fake news for manipulation of public opinion). Such a virtual space allows the plurality of uncensored opinions, but lacks systematization, has a large number of appraisal judgments, radicalism and impulsivity that is not peculiar to the offline community. [2]. Besides that, a lack of legislative regulation for online resources in different countries allows to bypass restrictions concerning the use of funds and make fake popularity ratings for pages.

In this context, think tanks are trying to develop tools to explore social networks, in particular to provide such statistics as:

  • activeness of various social groups in internet (teenagers, youth, "middle class", "elite", pensioners, women/men, poor/rich, city/village, higher/secondary education, etc.);
  • popularity/activeness of parties/candidates in social networks - visits, comments, likes, shares;
  • conducting public opinion polls;
  • studying the types and nature of messages;
  • placement of political advertising and sponsorship messages: number, subject, algorithm of distribution, targeting, disclosure of funding sources.

Civil Network OPORA, together with NDI and ISFED, has developed a unique methodology to monitor Facebook. It is called "Fact-a-layzer", and was previously tested by the ISFED NGO during 2018 presidential election in Georgia. The tool allows you to collect public messages on Facebook, group them under different categories, automatically analyze and visualize the information. Civil Network OPORA has started to monitor Facebook on 31 December, the day official presidential election started. Observation was focused on the following objects:

  1. Activeness of presidential candidates and other electoral subjects on Facebook.
  2. Activeness on Facebook pages, created to discredit presidential candidates.
  3. Pages used for sharing disinformation and fake messages.
  4. Promotion of posts through advertising on Facebook.
  5. The work of mass media and popular Ukrainian public pages.

Thus, OPORA's research covered over 300 public pages on Facebook, which have had around 200,000 posts, during the election campaign. OPORA had closely monitored official pages of presidential candidates and pages, created to disseminate discrediting posts about candidates.

One of the most important metric for popularity on Facebook is Talking About This. It shows the number of people interacting (commenting, liking, and sharing) on this page over the past seven days. This infographic shows dynamics of the Talking About This metric for top ten pages of presidential candidates during the period from December 31, 2019 to April 1, 2019. Thus, the page of candidate Petro Poroshenko had been discussed the most over the whole election process. Only sometimes it was behind the following pages: "Yuliia Tymoshenko", "Team of Zelenskyi", "Oleksandr Shevchenko", and "Vitalii Kuprii".

The metric Talking About This depends on the number of subscribers a page has, but it is also heavily depends on promotion of posts using Facebook advertising. In other words, the more advertising is bought, the higher metric Talking About This is. For example, a post on candidate's Facebook page, which had the highest ranking over the whole election campaign.

Candidate Oleksandr Shevchenko spent from 10 to 50 thousands of US dollars on promotion of this post. As a result, his page became the first in Talking About This on 12 March. However, pages, that were specialized on "black PR", spent similar amounts on advertising. For example, pages "Antipor", "Servant of the freak", "Real Hryshch", "BabYulia", "Muesli of Klychko". This infographic depicts the dynamics of Talking About This metric for top 10 pages created to discredit candidates.

It is clear from the infographic that page "AntiPor", aimed to discredit Petro Poroshenko, was discussed the most during the largest period of the election campaign. It is also interesting that the page emerged on 21 January 2019, 5 days after a similar page "Antipor" was blocked. Pages "Servant of the freak", "Boycott the Party of Regions", "Promiser" and "Benia's Clown".

When exploring the rankings of publications on Facebook, we noticed that the following posts were the most popular during the first round of election campaign:

1. Post about Yurii Lutsenko and his activeness on "AntiPor";

2. Video about Dmitro Gordon's call not to vote for Petro Poroshenko on page "AntiPor";

3. Video about the "Dembel chord" of Petro Poroshenko on page "Promiser";

4. Announcement about flash mob #PetiaDontRunForPresidency on page "AntiPor".

Finally, Civil Network OPORA analyzed Talking About This metric for public Facebook pages. According to the results, pages of editions DialogUA, TSN, Znai.ua, Obozrevatel, and 24th Channel were the most represented during the presidential campaign.

[1] Medvedchuk, M. Internet technologies as an instrument to form the candidate's image during election campaigns. Modern Ukrainian politics. Politicians and political scientists about her. - 2009

[2] Yanchenko A. Social media as an element of political communication. Political Management, (1-2). - 2013. - p. 153-163.