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)”.
Chaya Nayak at Facebook: “In 2018, Facebook began an initiative to support independent academic research on social media’s role in elections and democracy. This first-of-its-kind project seeks to provide researchers access to privacy-preserving data sets in order to support research on these important topics.
Today, we are announcing that we have substantially increased the amount of data we’re providing to 60 academic researchers across 17 labs and 30 universities around the world. This release delivers on the commitment we made in July 2018 to share a data set that enables researchers to study information and misinformation on Facebook, while also ensuring that we protect the privacy of our users.
This new data release supplants data we released in the fall of 2019. That 2019 data set consisted of links that had been shared publicly on Facebook by at least 100 unique Facebook users. It included information about share counts, ratings by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers, and user reporting on spam, hate speech, and false news associated with those links. We have expanded the data set to now include more than 38 million unique links with new aggregated information to help academic researchers analyze how many people saw these links on Facebook and how they interacted with that content – including views, clicks, shares, likes, and other reactions. We’ve also aggregated these shares by age, gender, country, and month. And, we have expanded the time frame covered by the data from January 2017 – February 2019 to January 2017 – August 2019.
With this data, researchers will be able to understand important aspects of how social media shapes our world. They’ll be able to make progress on the research questions they proposed, such as “how to characterize mainstream and non-mainstream online news sources in social media” and “studying polarization, misinformation, and manipulation across multiple platforms and the larger information ecosystem.”
In addition to the data set of URLs, researchers will continue to have access to CrowdTangle and Facebook’s Ad Library API to augment their analyses. Per the original plan for this project, outside of a limited review to ensure that no confidential or user data is inadvertently released, these researchers will be able to publish their findings without approval from Facebook.
We are sharing this data with researchers while continuing to prioritize the privacy of people who use our services. This new data set, like the data we released before it, is protected by a method known as differential privacy. Researchers have access to data tables from which they can learn about aggregated groups, but where they cannot identify any individual user. As Harvard University’s Privacy Tools project puts it:
“The guarantee of a differentially private algorithm is that its behavior hardly changes when a single individual joins or leaves the dataset — anything the algorithm might output on a database containing some individual’s information is almost as likely to have come from a database without that individual’s information. … This gives a formal guarantee that individual-level information about participants in the database is not leaked.” …(More)”
Introduction to Special Issue of Internet Policy Review by Colin J. Bennett and David Lyon: “There is a pervasive assumption that elections can be won and lost on the basis of which candidate or party has the better data on the preferences and behaviour of the electorate. But there are myths and realities about data-driven elections. I
t is time to assess the actual implications of data-driven elections in the light of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, and to reconsider the broader terms of the international debate. Political micro-targeting, and the voter analytics upon which it is based, are essentially forms of surveillance. We know a lot about how surveillance harms democratic values. We know a lot less, however, about how surveillance spreads as a result of democratic practices – by the agents and organisations that encourage us to vote (or not vote).
The articles in this collection, developed out of a workshop hosted by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia in April 2019, address the most central issues about data-driven elections, and particularly the impact of US social media platforms on local political institutions and cultures. The balance between rights to privacy, and the rights of political actors to communicate with the electorate, is struck in different ways in different jurisdictions depending on a complex interplay of various legal, political, and cultural factors. Collectively, the articles in this collection signal the necessary questions for academics and regulators in the years ahead….(More)”.
Essay by Richard Bellamy: “This essay explores how far democracy is compatible with lies and deception, and whether it encourages or discourages their use by politicians. Neo-Kantian arguments, such as Newey’s, that lies and deception undermine individual autonomy and the possibility for consent go too far, given that no democratic process can be regarded as a plausible mechanism for achieving collective consent to state policies. However, they can be regarded as incompatible with a more modest account of democracy as a system of public equality among political equals.
On this view, the problem with lies and deception derives from their being instruments of manipulation and domination. Both can be distinguished from ‘spin’, with a working democracy being capable of uncovering them and so incentivising politicians to be truthful. Nevertheless, while lies and deception will find you out, bullshit and post truth disregard and subvert truth respectively, and as such prove more pernicious as they admit of no standard whereby they might be challenged….(More)”.
David Karpf at MediaWell: “…How many votes did Cambridge Analytica affect in the 2016 presidential election? How much of a difference did the company actually make?
Cambridge Analytica has become something of a Rorschach test among those who pay attention to digital disinformation and microtargeted propaganda. Some hail the company as a digital Svengali, harnessing the power of big data to reshape the behavior of the American electorate. Others suggest the company was peddling digital snake oil, with outlandish marketing claims that bore little resemblance to their mundane product.
One thing is certain: the company has become a household name, practically synonymous with disinformation and digital propaganda in the aftermath of the 2016 election. It has claimed credit for the surprising success of the Brexit referendum and for the Trump digital strategy. Journalists such as Carole Cadwalladr and Hannes Grasseger and Mikael Krogerus have published longform articles that dive into the “psychographic” breakthroughs that the company claims to have made. Cadwalladr also exposed the links between the company and a network of influential conservative donors and political operatives. Whistleblower Chris Wylie, who worked for a time as the company’s head of research, further detailed how it obtained a massive trove of Facebook data on tens of millions of American citizens, in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has been a driving force in the current “techlash,” and has been the topic of congressional hearings, documentaries, mass-market books, and scholarly articles.
The reasons for concern are numerous. The company’s own marketing materials boasted about radical breakthroughs in psychographic targeting—developing psychological profiles of every US voter so that political campaigns could tailor messages to exploit psychological vulnerabilities. Those marketing claims were paired with disturbing revelations about the company violating Facebook’s terms of service to scrape tens of millions of user profiles, which were then compiled into a broader database of US voters. Cambridge Analytica behaved unethically. It either broke a lot of laws or demonstrated that old laws needed updating. When the company shut down, no one seemed to shed a tear.
But what is less clear is just how different Cambridge Analytica’s product actually was from the type of microtargeted digital advertisements that every other US electoral campaign uses. Many of the most prominent researchers warning the public about how Cambridge Analytica uses our digital exhaust to “hack our brains” are marketing professors, more accustomed to studying the impact of advertising in commerce than in elections. The political science research community has been far more skeptical. An investigation from Nature magazine documented that the evidence of Cambridge Analytica’s independent impact on voter behavior is basically nonexistent (Gibney 2018). There is no evidence that psychographic targeting actually works at the scale of the American electorate, and there is also no evidence that Cambridge Analytica in fact deployed psychographic models while working for the Trump campaign. The company clearly broke Facebook’s terms of service in acquiring its massive Facebook dataset. But it is not clear that the massive dataset made much of a difference.
At issue in the Cambridge Analytica case are two baseline assumptions about political persuasion in elections. First, what should be our point of comparison for digital propaganda in elections? Second, how does political persuasion in elections compare to persuasion in commercial arenas and marketing in general?…(More)”.
Introduction to Special Issue of Science, Technology & Human Values by Baki Cakici, Evelyn Ruppert and Stephan Scheel: “Politically, Europe has been unable to address itself to a constituted polity and people as more than an agglomeration of nation-states. From the resurgence of nationalisms to the crisis of the single currency and the unprecedented decision of a member state to leave the European Union (EU), core questions about the future of Europe have been rearticulated: Who are the people of Europe? Is there a European identity? What does it mean to say, “I am European?” Where does Europe begin and end? and Who can legitimately claim to be a part of a “European” people?
The special issue (SI) seeks to contest dominant framings of the question “Who are the people of Europe?” as only a matter of government policies, electoral campaigns, or parliamentary debates. Instead, the contributions start from the assumption that answers to this question exist in data practices where people are addressed, framed, known, and governed as European. The central argument of this SI is that it is through data practices that the EU seeks to simultaneously constitute its population as a knowable, governable entity, and as a distinct form of peoplehood where common personhood is more important than differences….(More)”.
Blogpost by Vitalik Buterin: “If you follow applied mechanism design or decentralized governance at all, you may have recently heard one of a few buzzwords: quadratic voting, quadratic funding and quadratic attention purchase. These ideas have been gaining popularity rapidly over the last few years, and small-scale tests have already been deployed: the Taiwanese presidential hackathon used quadratic voting to vote on winning projects, Gitcoin Grants used quadratic funding to fund public goods in the Ethereum ecosystem, and the Colorado Democratic party also experimented with quadratic voting to determine their party platform.
To the proponents of these voting schemes, this is not just another slight improvement to what exists. Rather, it’s an initial foray into a fundamentally new class of social technology which, has the potential to overturn how we make many public decisions, large and small. The ultimate effect of these schemes rolled out in their full form could be as deeply transformative as the industrial-era advent of mostly-free markets and constitutional democracy. But now, you may be thinking: “These are large promises. What do these new governance technologies have that justifies such claims?”…(More)”.
Book edited by Adam J. Berinsky: “The 2016 elections called into question the accuracy of public opinion polling while tapping into new streams of public opinion more widely. The third edition of this well-established text addresses these questions and adds new perspectives to its authoritative line-up. The hallmark of this book is making cutting-edge research accessible and understandable to students and general readers. Here we see a variety of disciplinary approaches to public opinion reflected including psychology, economics, sociology, and biology in addition to political science. An emphasis on race, gender, and new media puts the elections of 2016 into context and prepares students to look ahead to 2020 and beyond.
New to the third edition:
• Includes 2016 election results and their implications for public opinion polling going forward.
• Three new chapters have been added on racializing politics, worldview politics, and the modern information environment….(More)”.
Book edited by Ashu M. G. Solo: “Technology and particularly the Internet have caused many changes in the realm of politics. Aspects of engineering, computer science, mathematics, or natural science can be applied to politics. Politicians and candidates use their own websites and social network profiles to get their message out. Revolutions in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa have started in large part due to social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Social networking has also played a role in protests and riots in numerous countries. The mainstream media no longer has a monopoly on political commentary as anybody can set up a blog or post a video online. Now, political activists can network together online.
The Handbook of Research on Politics in the Computer Age is a pivotal reference source that serves to increase the understanding of methods for politics in the computer age, the effectiveness of these methods, and tools for analyzing these methods. The book includes research chapters on different aspects of politics with information technology, engineering, computer science, or math, from 27 researchers at 20 universities and research organizations in Belgium, Brazil, Cape Verde, Egypt, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, and the United States of America. Highlighting topics such as online campaigning and fake news, the prospective audience includes, but is not limited to, researchers, political and public policy analysts, political scientists, engineers, computer scientists, political campaign managers and staff, politicians and their staff, political operatives, professors, students, and individuals working in the fields of politics, e-politics, e-government, new media and communication studies, and Internet marketing….(More)”.
Michael Grothaus at Fast Company: “2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang may not be at the top of the race when it comes to polling (Politico currently has him ranked as the 7th most-popular Democratic contender), but his policies, including support for universal basic income, have made him popular among a subset of young, liberal-leaning, tech-savvy voters. Yang’s latest proposal, too, is sure to strike a chord with them.
The presidential candidate published his latest policy proposal today: to treat data as a property right. Announcing the proposal on his website, Yang lamented how our data is collected, used, and abused by companies, often with little awareness or consent from us. “This needs to stop,” Yang says. “Data generated by each individual needs to be owned by them, with certain rights conveyed that will allow them to know how it’s used and protect it.”
The rights Yang is proposing:
- The right to be informed as to what data will be collected, and how it will be used
- The right to opt out of data collection or sharing
- The right to be told if a website has data on you, and what that data is
- The right to be forgotten; to have all data related to you deleted upon request
- The right to be informed if ownership of your data changes hands
- The right to be informed of any data breaches including your information in a timely manner
- The right to download all data in a standardized format to port to another platform…(More)”.