How pro-trust initiatives are taking over the Internet

Sara Fisher at Axios: “Dozens of new initiatives have launched over the past few years to address fake news and the erosion of faith in the media, creating a measurement problem of its own.

Why it matters: So many new efforts are launching simultaneously to solve the same problem that it’s become difficult to track which ones do what and which ones are partnering with each other….

To name a few:

  • The Trust Project, which is made up of dozens of global news companies, announced this morning that the number of journalism organizations using the global network’s “Trust Indicators” now totals 120, making it one of the larger global initiatives to combat fake news. Some of these groups (like NewsGuard) work with Trust Project and are a part of it.
  • News Integrity Initiative (Facebook, Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Ford Foundation, Democracy Fund, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Tow Foundation, AppNexus, Mozilla and Betaworks)
  • NewsGuard (Longtime journalists and media entrepreneurs Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz)
  • The Journalism Trust Initiative (Reporters Without Borders, and Agence France Presse, the European Broadcasting Union and the Global Editors Network )
  • Internews (Longtime international non-profit)
  • Accountability Journalism Program (American Press Institute)
  • Trusting News (Reynolds Journalism Institute)
  • Media Manipulation Initiative (Data & Society)
  • (Frédéric Filloux)
  • Trust & News Initiative (Knight Foundation, Facebook and Craig Newmark in. affiliation with Duke University)
  • Our.News (Independently run)
  • WikiTribune (Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales)

There are also dozens of fact-checking efforts being championed by different third-parties, as well as efforts being built around blockchain and artificial intelligence.

Between the lines: Most of these efforts include some sort of mechanism for allowing readers to physically discern real journalism from fake news via some sort of badge or watermark, but that presents problems as well.

  • Attempts to flag or call out news as being real and valid have in the past been rejected even further by those who wish to discredit vetted media.
  • For example, Facebook said in December that it will no longer use “Disputed Flags” — red flags next to fake news articles — to identify fake news for users, because it found that “putting a strong image, like a red flag, next to an article may actually entrench deeply held beliefs – the opposite effect to what we intended.”…(More)”.

Renovating democracy from the bottom up

Nathan Gardels at the Washington Post: “The participatory power of social media is a game changer for governance. It levels the playing field among amateurs and experts, peers and authorities and even challenges the legitimacy of representative government. Its arrival coincides with and reinforces the widespread distrust of elites across the Western world, ripening the historical moment for direct democracy.

For the first time, an Internet-based movement has come to power in a major country, Italy, under the slogan “Participate, don’t delegate!” All of the Five Star Movement’s parliamentarians, who rule the country in a coalition with the far-right League party, were nominated and elected to stand for office online. And they have appointed the world’s first minister for direct democracy, Riccardo Fraccaro.

In Rome this week, he explained the participatory agenda of Italy’s ruling coalition government to The WorldPost at a meeting of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. “Citizens must be granted the same possibility to actively intervene in the process of managing and administrating public goods as normally carried out by their elected representatives,” he enthused. “What we have witnessed in our democracy is a drift toward ‘partyocracy,’ in which a restricted circle of policymakers have been so fully empowered with decision-making capacity that they could virtually ignore and bypass the public will. The mere election of a representative every so many years is no longer sufficient to prevent this from happening. That is why our government will take the next step forward in order to innovate and enhance our democracy.”

Fraccaro went on: “Referenda, public petitions and the citizens’ ballot initiative are nothing other than the direct means available for the citizenry to submit laws that political parties are not willing to propose or to reject rules approved by political parties that are not welcome by the people. Our aim, therefore, is to establish the principles and practices of direct democracy alongside the system of representative government in order to give real, authentic sovereignty to the citizens.”

At the Rome forum, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio, a Five Star member, railed against the technocrats and banks he says are trying to frustrate the will of the people. He promised forthcoming changes in the Italian constitution to follow through on Fraccaro’s call for citizen-initiated propositions that will go to the public ballot if the legislature does not act on them.

The program that has so far emerged out of the government’s participatory agenda is a mixed bag. It includes everything from anti-immigrant and anti-vaccine policies to the expansion of digital networks and planting more trees. In a move that has unsettled the European Union authorities as well as Italy’s non-partisan, indirectly-elected president, the governing coalition last week proposed both a tax cut and the provision of a universal basic income — despite the fact that Italy’s long-term debt is already 130 percent of GDP.

The Italian experiment warrants close attention as a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. It reveals a paradox for governance in this digital age: the more participation there is, the greater the need for the counterbalance of impartial mediating practices and institutions that can process the cacophony of voices, sort out the deluge of contested information, dispense with magical thinking and negotiate fair trade-offs among the welter of conflicting interests….(More)”.

Democracy Disconnected: Participation and Governance in a City of the South

Book by Fiona Anciano and Laurence Piper: “Why is dissatisfaction with local democracy endemic, despite the spread of new participatory institutions? This book argues that a key reason is the limited power of elected local officials, especially to produce the City. City Hall lacks control over key aspects of city decision-making, especially under conditions of economic globalisation and rapid urbanisation in the urban South.

Demonstrated through case studies of daily politics in Hout Bay, Democracy Disconnected shows how Cape Town residents engage local rule. In the absence of democratic control, urban rule in the Global South becomes a complex and contingent framework of multiple and multilevel forms of urban governance (FUG) that involve City Hall, but are not directed by it. Bureaucratic governance coexists alongside market, developmental and informal forms of governance. This disconnect of democracy from urban governance segregates people spatially, socially, but also politically. Thus, while the residents of Hout Bay may live next to each other, they do not live with each other…(More)”.

Ctrl Alt Delete: How Politics and the Media Crashed Our Democracy

Book by Tom Baldwin: We all know something has gone wrong: people hate politics, loathe the media and are now scared of each other too. Journalist and one-time senior political advisor Tom Baldwin tells the riveting–often terrifying–story of how a tidal wave of information overwhelmed democracy’s sandcastle defenses against extremism and falsehood.

Ctrl Alt Delete exposes the struggle for control between a rapacious 24-hour media and terrified politicians that has loosened those leaders’ grip on truth as the internet rips the ground out from under them. It explains how dependency on data, algorithms and digital technology brought about the rise of the Alt Right, the Alt Left and a triumphant army of trolls driving people apart. And it warns of the rise of those threatening to delete what remains of democracy: resurgent populists in Westminster, the White House and the Kremlin, but also–just as often–liberals fearful of mob rule.

This is an explosive, brutally honest and sometimes funny account of what we all got wrong, and how to put it right again. It will change the way you look at the world–and especially the everyday technology that crashed our democracy….(More)”.

Senators introduce the ‘Artificial Intelligence in Government Act’

Tajha Chappellet-Lanier at FedScoop: “A cadre of senators is looking to prompt the federal government to be a bit more proactive in utilizing artificial intelligence technologies.

To this end, the bipartisan group including Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., introduced the Artificial Intelligence in Government Acton Wednesday. Per a news release, the bill would seek to “improve the use of AI across the federal government by providing resources and directing federal agencies to include AI in data-related planning.”

The bill aims to do a number of things, including establishing an AI in government advisory board, directing the White House Office of Management and Budget to look into AI as part of the federal data strategy, getting the Office of Personnel Management to look at what kinds of employee skills are necessary for AI competence in government and expanding “an office” at the General Services Administration that will provide expertise, do research and “promote U.S. competitiveness.”

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to benefit society in ways we cannot imagine today,” Harris said in a statement. “We already see its immense value in applications as diverse as diagnosing cancer to routing vehicles. The AI in Government Act gives the federal government the tools and resources it needs to build its expertise and in partnership with industry and academia. The bill will help develop the policies to ensure that society reaps the benefits of these emerging technologies, while protecting people from potential risks, such as biases in AI.”

The proposed legislation is supported by a bunch of companies and advocacy groups in the tech space including BSA, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Intel, the Internet Association, the Lincoln Network, Microsoft, the Niskanen Center, and the R Street Institute.

The senators are hardly alone in their conviction that AI will be a powerful tool for government. At a summit in May, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy created a Select Committee on artificial intelligence, comprised of senior research and development officials from across the government….(More)”.

Direct Democracy and Political Engagement of the Marginalized

Dissertation by Jeong Hyun Kim: “…examines direct democracy’s implications for political equality by focusing on how it influences and modifies political attitudes and behaviors of marginalized groups. Using cases and data from Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States, I provide a comprehensive, global examination of how direct democratic institutions affect political participation, especially of political minority or marginalized groups.

In the first paper, I examine whether the practice of direct democracy supports women’s political participation. I theorize that the use of direct democracy enhances women’s sense of political efficacy, thereby promoting their participation in the political process. I test this argument by leveraging a quasi-experiment in Sweden from 1921 to 1944, wherein the use of direct democratic institutions was determined by a population threshold. Findings from a regression discontinuity analysis lend strong support for the positive effect of direct democracy on women’s political participation. Using web documents of minutes from direct democratic meetings, I further show that women’s participation in direct democracy is positively associated with their subsequent participation in parliamentary elections.

The second paper expands on the first paper by examining an individual-level mechanism linking experience with direct democracy and feelings of political efficacy. Using panel survey data from Switzerland, I examine the relationship between individuals’ exposure to direct democracy and the gender gap in political efficacy. I find that direct democracy increases women’s sense of political efficacy, while it has no significant effect on men. This finding confirms that the opportunity for direct legislation leads women to feel more efficacious in politics, suggesting its further implications for the gender gap in political engagement.

In the third and final paper, I examine how direct democratic votes targeting ethnic minorities influence political mobilization of minority groups. I theorize that targeted popular votes intensify the general public’s hostility towards minority groups, thereby enhancing group members’ perceptions of being stigmatized. Consequently, this creates a greater incentive for minorities to actively engage in politics. Using survey data from the United States, combined with information about state-level direct democracy, I find that direct democratic votes targeting the rights of immigrants lead to greater political activism among ethnic minorities with immigrant background. These studies contribute to the extant study of women and minority politics by illuminating new mechanisms underlying mobilization of women and minorities and clarifying the causal effect of the type of government on political equality….(More)”.

Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech

Book by Jamie Susskind: “Future Politics confronts one of the most important questions of our time: how will digital technology transform politics and society? The great political debate of the last century was about how much of our collective life should be determined by the state and what should be left to the market and civil society. In the future, the question will be how far our lives should be directed and controlled by powerful digital systems — and on what terms?

Jamie Susskind argues that rapid and relentless innovation in a range of technologies — from artificial intelligence to virtual reality — will transform the way we live together. Calling for a fundamental change in the way we think about politics, he describes a world in which certain technologies and platforms, and those who control them, come to hold great power over us. Some will gather data about our lives, causing us to avoid conduct perceived as shameful, sinful, or wrong. Others will filter our perception of the world, choosing what we know, shaping what we think, affecting how we feel, and guiding how we act. Still others will force us to behave certain ways, like self-driving cars that refuse to drive over the speed limit.

Those who control these technologies — usually big tech firms and the state — will increasingly control us. They will set the limits of our liberty, decreeing what we may do and what is forbidden. Their algorithms will resolve vital questions of social justice, allocating social goods and sorting us into hierarchies of status and esteem. They will decide the future of democracy, causing it to flourish or decay.

A groundbreaking work of political analysis, Future Politics challenges readers to rethink what it means to be free or equal, what it means to have power or property, what it means for a political system to be just or democratic, and proposes ways in which we can — and must — regain control….(More)”.

Multistakeholder Governance and Democracy: A Global Challenge

Book by Harris Gleckman: “Multistakeholder governance is proposed as the way forward in global governance. For some leaders in civil society and government who are frustrated with the lack of power of the UN system and multilateralism it is seen as an attractive alternative; others, particularly in the corporate world, see multistakeholder governance as offering a more direct hand and potentially a legitimate role in national and global governance.

This book examines how the development of multistakeholderism poses a challenge to multilateralism and democracy. Using a theoretical, historical perspective it describes how the debate on global governance evolved and what working principles of multilateralism are under threat. From a sociological perspective, the book identifies the organizational beliefs of multistakeholder groups and the likely change in the roles that leaders in government, civil society, and the private sector will face as they evolve into potential global governors. From a practical perspective, the book addresses the governance issues which organizations and individuals should assess before deciding to participate in or support a particular multistakeholder group.

Given the current emphasis on the participation of multiple actors in the Sustainable Development Goals, this book will have wide appeal across policy-making and professional sectors involved in negotiations and governance at all levels. It will also be essential reading for students studying applied governance….(More)”.

Mission Failure

Matthew Sawh at Stanford Social Innovation Review: “Exposing the problems of policy schools can ignite new ways to realize the mission of educating public servants in the 21st century….

Public policy schools were founded with the aim to educate public servants with academic insights that could be applied to government administration. And while these programs have adapted the tools and vocabularies of the Reagan Revolution, such as the use of privatization and the rhetoric of competition, they have not come to terms with his philosophical legacy that describes our contemporary political culture. To do so, public policy schools need to acknowledge that the public perceives the government as the problem, not the solution, to society’s ills. Today, these programs need to ask how decisionmakers should improve the design of their organizations, their decision-making processes, and their curriculum in order to address the public’s skeptical mindset.

I recently attended a public policy school, Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), hoping to learn how to bridge the distrust between public servants and citizens, and to help forge bonds between bureaucracies and voters who feel ignored by their government officials. Instead of building bridges across these divides, the curriculum of my policy program reinforced them—training students to navigate bureaucratic silos in our democracy. Of course, public policy students go to work in the government we have, not the government we wish we had—but that’s the point. These schools should lead the national conversation and equip their graduates to think and act beyond the divides between the governing and the governed.

Most US public policy programs require a core set of courses, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, statistics, and organizational management. SIPA has broader requirements, including a financial management course, a client consulting workshop, and an internship. Both sets of core curricula undervalue the intrapersonal and interpersonal elements of leadership, particularly politics, which I define aspersuasion, particularly within groups and institutions.

Public service is more than developing smart ideas; it entails the ability to marshal the financial, political, and organizational supports to make those ideas resonate with the public and take effect in government policy. Unfortunately, these programs aren’t adequately training early career professionals to implement their ideas by giving short shrift to the intrapersonal and institutional contexts of real changemaking.

Within the core curriculum, the story of change is told as the product of processes wherein policymakers can know the rational expectations of the public. But the people themselves have concerns beyond those perceived by policymakers. As public servants, our success depends on our ability to meet people where they are, rather than where we suppose they should be.  …

Public policy schools must reach a consensus on core identity questions: Who is best placed to lead a policy school? What are their aims in crafting a professional class? What exactly should a policy degree mean in the wider world? The problem is that these programs are meant to teach students about not only the science of good government, but the human art of good governance.

Curricula based on an outdated sense both of the political process and of advocacy is a predominant feature of policy programs. Instead, core courses should cover how to advocate effectively in this new political world of the 21st century. Students should learn how to raise money for a political campaign; how to lobby; how to make an advertising budget; and how to purchase airtime in the digital age…(More)”

Digital Deceit II: A Policy Agenda to Fight Disinformation on the Internet

We have developed here a broad policy framework to address the digital threat to democracy, building upon basic principles to recommend a set of specific proposals.

Transparency: As citizens, we have the right to know who is trying to influence our political views and how they are doing it. We must have explicit disclosure about the operation of dominant digital media platforms — including:

  • Real-time and archived information about targeted political advertising;
  • Clear accountability for the social impact of automated decision-making;
  • Explicit indicators for the presence of non-human accounts in digital media.

Privacy: As individuals with the right to personal autonomy, we must be given more control over how our data is collected, used, and monetized — especially when it comes to sensitive information that shapes political decision-making. A baseline data privacy law must include:

  • Consumer control over data through stronger rights to access and removal;
  • Transparency for the user of the full extent of data usage and meaningful consent;
  • Stronger enforcement with resources and authority for agency rule-making.

Competition: As consumers, we must have meaningful options to find, send and receive information over digital media. The rise of dominant digital platforms demonstrates how market structure influences social and political outcomes. A new competition policy agenda should include:

  • Stronger oversight of mergers and acquisitions;
  • Antitrust reform including new enforcement regimes, levies, and essential services regulation;
  • Robust data portability and interoperability between services.

There are no single-solution approaches to the problem of digital disinformation that are likely to change outcomes. … Awareness and education are the first steps toward organizing and action to build a new social contract for digital democracy….(More)”