Custom Built / Feito Sob Medida:

Strategy Blueprint for Global Majority Election Coalitions

Citation: Lanuza, JM, Jackson, D., Alves, M. Grohmann, R., Recuero, R; Tavares, C., and Ong, JC. (2024). Custom Built / Feito Sob Medida: Strategy Blueprint for Global Majority Election Coalitions. GloTech Lab at UMass Amherst. Available URL:

This study would not have been possible with the support of Luminate, the Carnegie
Corporation of New York, and Open Society Foundations. The authors would also like to thank the convenors and participants of two South-to-South Knowledge Exchange Workshops hosted by the Pontifical Catholic University de Rio de Janeiro in November 2023 and co-hosted by DigiLabour and UMass Amherst in March 2023.

We are grateful to GloTech colleagues Burcu Baykurt, Wayne Xu, and Jane Yeahin Pyo for their feedback on an earlier draft. We also thank collaborators Nicole Curato and Thales Lelo whose comments and analysis informed our framing and recommendations.

Report design is by Yeni Kim.

GloTech Lab’s visual identity is by Kay Aranzanso.

Portuguese and Filipino translations of this report are forthcoming in Summer 2024.

Executive Summary

This report centers the identities, experiences, and vulnerabilities of Global Majority election integrity coalition leaders in its call for a more globally minded and community-driven tech and democracy space. Drawing from comparative and ethnographic work in Brazil and the Philippines, in conversation with the experiences of civil society in India, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United States, this collaborative study develops a strategy blueprint for addressing illicit influence operations in a year of pivotal global elections.

Our main argument: For countries to develop custom built / feito sob medida solutions addressing shared and specific digital harms and threats to information environments, we need fair, inclusive, and just global governance structures that can actually support the development of bottom-up and targeted interventions. While there appear to be a larger number of international panels and national coalitions monitoring the global information environment, in practice these groups conceptualize and incentivize a narrow set of techno-legal solutions from the Global North to be applied to the Global Majority. At the country level, an unjust and exclusive governance structure in the tech and democracy space enacts coalition groupthink, reinforces disciplinary divisions, and excludes minoritized voices outside of geographic and social centers. At the international level, this illusion of inclusion in the tech and democracy space co-opts indigenous tech activism and justifies extractive systems of knowledge creation.

This report synthesizes diverse perspectives of “successful” and self-reflexive Left activists and election coalition organizers in Brazil along with those of resourceful yet burnt-out civil society leaders in the Philippines picking up the pieces after a “landslide” electoral defeat of the political opposition. We discuss their experiences and retell their soul-searching after heated national elections in 2022 that served as referenda for the populist leadership and their publics’ embrace of authoritarian nostalgia.

Six Key Takeaways

  1. Addressing threats to the information environment during elections is like “a war being fought on multiple fronts”. Brazilian election coalitions stacked heavy hitters along a wider range of activities–from policymaking to defunding disinformers to original and investigative research. In contrast, the Philippines’ election coalitions organized what were truly diverse civil society groups to apply the same tech and tools of debunking. Election coalitions around the world should find ways to leverage their members’ unique skills and specific constituencies rather than flatten them out.
  2. Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court is a rare entity in the global tech and democracy space insofar as it represents an in-country institutional accelerant for accountability both of Big Tech and “disinformers at the top”. Its move to deplatform the political incumbent Jair Bolsonaro from Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) is unprecedented especially in Global Majority countries where incidents of government overreach almost-always favor the political incumbent. The Global Majority participants of our South-to-South Knowledge Exchange Workshops celebrated their Brazilian colleagues’ multi-stakeholder collaborations with the Court, but cautioned against the risk of total state capture of online speech.
  3. Global Majority tech and democracy coalitions often ventriloquize Global North advocacy frames that displace the problem of disinformation onto people pathologized as “uneducated and social media-brainwashed.” The seductive yet misleading explanatory frame of all-powerful tech controlling “dumb voters” often perpetuates anti-poor sentiments and narrows the potential audiences of media and voter literacy campaigns. Brazil has avoided “dumb voter” tropes with a sharper strategy of punching up to political elites rather than blaming low-income voters for their political choices.
  4. Since 2016, the global tech and democracy space has massively grown as public funding, private philanthropy, and military intelligence have invested in a variety of international expert panels, multi-stakeholder coalitions, and whole-of-society collaborations. While massively funded, on the ground within Global Majority countries these coalitions are rarely experienced as fair, inclusive, and just. Policy frameworks and intervention design support North-to-South flows and overlook the profound moments when Global Majority tech activism diverges from Global North agenda. Specifically, we will elaborate on the case of the #PushbackUNESCO campaign by Southeast Asian civil society organizations.
  5. We need to reimagine unjust global governance structures and redirect the financial incentive frameworks stemming from our Global North-centered tech and democracy space. Global Majority election coalition leaders spoke out against knowledge extractivism in the space, where Global North intellectuals, policymakers, and funders engage the Global Majority as sites of dystopic horrors representing testing ground of their techno-legal interventions. During election cycles, Global Majority coalition leaders expressed frustration about the “parachute researchers” who poach local staff and take energies away from intervention work to indulgent case studies addressed to foreign audiences.
  6. Custom built / feito sob medida tech and democracy solutions begin with building sustainable, empowering, and just spaces for South-to-South trust network-building and knowledge co-creation. Such spaces celebrate critical research and interventions that prioritize healing at various scales of local, national, and transnational; they also resist the co-option of knowledge toward a militarization agenda that stokes social and geopolitical conflict. Such spaces tend to the vulnerabilities of minoritized communities, foster just and healthy collaboration, and model responsible allyship that facilitate South-to-North flows of ideas and solutions.
Publication Type



Jose Mari Lanuza, Dean Jackson, Marcelo Alves, Rafael Grohmann, Raquel Recuero, Camilla Tavares, and Jonathan Corpus Ong