Crossroads for the EU: Why It’s Never Been More Important to Vote

Stephen Gilmore, Lola Boom, Mohamed El Khalouki, Tibo Duhamel, Ilaria Cassani, Melanie Weber, Maren Schmid, Eléna Lefèbvre

This week’s elections to the European parliament are of critical importance. Not only will they set the course for the EU over the next five years, but they will help to shape the longer-term future of the European project.

Europe is confronted with a series of fundamental, intertwined challenges. There is the continued rise of far-right and anti-EU forces, who are consistently polling well in many member states and, according to some projections, could win more than one-third of the seats at the next election. We can also see substantial discontent with politics more generally, notably in movements such as the Gilets Jaunes in France.

Perhaps even more pervasive, and arguably a contributing factor to both of these issues, is a widespread lack of knowledge about how the EU operates – highly problematic considering, in the understated words of academic Bo Laursen and Chiara Valentini, the EU’s “considerable influence on European citizens’ daily lives”.

In this light, cliché though it may be, these European Parliament elections look like being the most important for a generation. The significance of voting cannot be overstated. Yet, if we look at the data since 1979, there is an obvious and pronounced downward trend in turnout across the continent as a whole. In 2014, countries such as Slovakia or the Czech Republic didn’t even hit 20% turnout.

Continue reading “Crossroads for the EU: Why It’s Never Been More Important to Vote”

Mass Precision in Digital Lobbying – a Myth or a Fact?

Bade Kızılaslan, Fréderic Christoph Heymans, Florian Baronyai, Ibtissam Amri, Lilia Kaberova, Margaryta Makovetska, Nevena Nedeljkovic, Omar Djedidi, Raquel Del Ri, Vera Sordini

How Does Lobbying Change with the Digitalization?

Lobbying, a persuasive form of action towards policy and decision makers, has changed over the years. Institutions, corporations, and interest groups with immense resources and well-skilled activists have used lobbying as a powerful way to push legislation in their favour. With the development of computing technologies, often referred to as ‘Big Data’, lobbyists today are better equipped than ever before.

Not only is there more information available, but it is also more easily accessible – regardless of time zones or location. We are only a few clicks away from accessing huge data banks that we can use to back up arguments with proficient facts and figures.

Continue reading “Mass Precision in Digital Lobbying – a Myth or a Fact?”

Hunting for Voters? Countering Political Micro-targeting and Big Data Exploitation in Times of Elections

Aida Sanchez, Fatima Ali, Jordan Higgins, Marcella Via, Paz Marquez Arellano, Renjani Pusposari, Bruna Maria Do Rego, Aroa Molero Gonzalez, and Sonia Reveyaz

Political microtargeting is threatening media pluralism and democracy at a global level, with Facebook influencing political campaigns in 66 countries, half of which are European states. Due to their opaque nature, algorithms are manipulating voters’ behavior and politicians are well aware of this trend. In times where the hearts and minds of people are gained via posts, campaign budgets are invested in colonizing the digital arena. Within this context, investigative journalists are the ones who need to hold algorithms to account to protect users’ data, assuring the respect of democratic values.

Continue reading “Hunting for Voters? Countering Political Micro-targeting and Big Data Exploitation in Times of Elections”

EU Approach: Fighting Disinformation with Information

Denisa Chvojkova, Leonard Kamps, Lan YANG, Anna Zimniak, Margherita Contro, Marcello De Giorgi, Rituparna Banerjee, Anna Mazur, Adrianna Adamczak

When people hear about fake news they think about famous examples like Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump. However, it is not just that. An information disorder in the public discourse with significant implications on how democracies think, feel and vote for their representatives has been growing in Europe. The EU takes measures but merely scratches the surface. This blogpost shows that disinformation is a symptom of deeper underlying issues affecting contemporary societies in Europe.

The EU defines disinformation as “verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain or to intentionally deceive the public, and may cause public harm.” This definition comprises two core elements: falseness and the intention to deceive. Fake news (false stories mimicking real news) is just one variation of disinformation.

A recent Eurobarometer opinion poll has found  85% of European citizens perceive disinformation as a problem in their country and 83% as a problem for democracy in general. The most prominent example of the toxicity of disinformation is its interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Moreover, disinformation is said to have changed election results in at least 18 countries.

disinfo_img_1

Media audiences across the world doubt if the public is resilient against disinformation (63%) or if they themselves can recognise trustworthy media outlets (59%)

Continue reading “EU Approach: Fighting Disinformation with Information”