Conceptualizing the Impact of Digital Interference in Elections: A Framework and Agenda for Future Research

Paper by Nahema Marchal: “Concerns over digital interference in elections are widespread. Yet evidence of its impact is still thin and fragmented. How do malicious uses of social media shape, transform, and distort democratic processes? And how should we characterize this impact? Existing research into the effects of social media manipulation has largely focused on measuring its purported impact on opinion swings and voting behavior. Though laudable, this focus might be too reductive. Drawing on normative theories of liberal democracy, in this paper I argue that the threat of digital interference does not lie in its capacity to change people’s views but rather in its power to undermine popular perceptions of electoral integrity, with potentially far-reaching consequences for public trust. Following this assessment, I formulate a preliminary research agenda and highlight previously overlooked relationships that could be explored to better understand how malicious uses of social media might shape such attitudes and to what effect….(More)”.