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.

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How to Minimize the Impact of Filter Bubbles in the EU Election

Farzaneh Azadasl, Cristina M. Gonzalez, Anna Kary, Ghufran Muhibi, Elena Sánchez Nicolás, Theodoros Papachristou, Emilija Tamosiune, Fazil Tercan, Qiao Zhou

European integration is at a crossroads. With the EU election just weeks away and Brexit on the horizon, polarization on social media and personalized digital algorithms threaten the cohesiveness of the European project.

The EU is very well aware of the danger, demanding action on election advertising transparency on platforms, for example. But it isn’t enough. We, citizens, need to be better informed about the power of algorithms, which shape our digital worlds and galvanize us on issues which can threaten our democracies. As EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager recently told The Atlantic, we are experiencing a “slow tsunami that is changing us, without being able to really fend for ourselves or give direction to our society.”

We’ll tell you some ways we can “fend for ourselves,” but first let’s talk about why this is so important.

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Media Literacy For The Future: The Real Solution For The Challenges Of The Digital Era

Liang Hong, Blessing Adewale, Dandong Zeng, Xin Lin, Thu Phuong Luu, Tugce Akkoyun, Domenica Simoneth Torres Vaca, Gülsen Güler, Alejandro Maya Toro

The Importance Of A Media-Literate Society

Nowadays, our society is characterised by elements that were unimaginable only twenty years ago. Our routines include things such as online shopping, posting on social media on a daily basis, and reading the news from electronic versions of newspapers and news channels. Such routines create more and more data while feeding digital systems. It is said that by the end of 2025, 163 zettabytes of data will be created globally. Surely, this much amount of data in our daily lives brings about many questions: what do we do with this amount of data? How could we prevent its misuse? How could we understand and use it? It is not necessary for every person to be a data scientist nor to have knowledge of programming algorithms. However, it is definitely relevant to have a rational and critical understanding of what is being done with all the data we put out there, as well as its possible effects in our personal lives and our society. Hence, it is not the intention of becoming a media expert but somehow a bit of a media literate.

Moreover, what does it mean to be media literate? In the Digital Single Market policy of the European Union, media literacy is defined as “the capacity to access, have a critical understanding and interact with the media. It is a tool that empowers citizens as well as raises their awareness and helps them counter the effects of disinformation campaigns and fake news spreading through digital media”.

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Journalism in the Digital Storm

Bianca Manelli, Chantal Cocherová, Georgios Evgenidis, Jiahuan He, Lara Corrado, Suhasni      Midha, Yuliia Hladka, Zeynep Atilgan Ozgenc

What is news? What makes somebody a journalist? In the era of social media and blogs, the answers to these questions are not as clear as they were 10 years ago. With professional journalism still struggling to work through the digitalization of media, the rise of citizen journalism challenges the definition of both news and journalist.

Citizen smartphone journalism

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AI vs. GDPR: Finding the Balance Between Ethics and Innovation

Isadora Tostes de Souza Barros, Busra Islek, Ruya Ince, Abeera Junaid Aslam, Réka Zsuzsanna Szitter, Eleftheria Katsi, Marta Soliño, Ceren Yaycili and Oyinkansola Awolo

The strict rules of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are likely to have a serious impact on the competitiveness of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector in Europe. The European Commission wants to assure customers and foreign investors with its EU strategy for AI that aims for the creation of European AI models that operate “ethically”. Although an ambitious AI strategy, it disregards the complexity of the new technologies and could potentially leave the EU behind in the AI race.

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Unconscious Writers, Unconscious Readers: Democracy Endangered

Lien Verstraeten, Jara Dichas, Melisa Zelaya & Robert Saura

On 12 January 2017, the European Parliament assessed a draft resolution relating to the regulation of automation and robots. However, until today, the EU has not implemented such legislation.

In a continuously changing digital era, the EU has mainly been focussing on protecting EU citizens; in 2016, the Union succeeded in approving the GDPR. The directive was designed to harmonise data privacy laws across the EU and to protect EU citizens’ data privacy.

“Greater efficiency can free up reporters from mundane tasks, but it can also warp what journalism is and what we want it to be”                    Carlson, 2018

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Educating Youngsters towards a Brighter Future. The Time is Now!

Farah Al Doori, Olga Kaferinova, Ina Krasteva, Ramona Mantescu, Eleni Myrtsioti, Ebenezer Toga, Antoni Tsekov

“A child miseducated is a child lost”, John F. Kennedy once said. Many would argue that as we live in times when all the knowledge in the world is a mouse click away. Yes and no. The rapid development of artificial intelligence and the digital technologies nowadays clearly proves that each aspect of our children’s lives will be different than ours.

Today’s pre-schoolers will join the workforce in 2035. To give them a springboard to the future, we need to ensure they possess the necessary skills to be competitive. Nothing will replace reading, writing, and arithmetic skills but mastering them only, would not guarantee a prosperous future. As we will prove below, we need to invest time, money and efforts to improve today’s kids’ digital competences. Furthermore, we need to encourage them to discover and develop their affinity in STEM subjects, regardless of their gender. Continue reading “Educating Youngsters towards a Brighter Future. The Time is Now!”

Tackling Transparency in the Facebook Era

Sofia Elanidou, Sofía Cisneros Gavín, Sarah Markewich, Pauline Ranscelot, Stefi Stampoulian, Hande Yılmaz

If we focus on solutions rather than on problems, “transparency” might be a good choice for the 2018 Word of the Year and a logical follow up to “fake news;” the 2017 winner.

Transparency Finally Takes Off,” is one of the 2018 “Predictions for Journalism” in Nieman Lab’s list via CUNY Journalism School’s Carrie Brown Smith. She says it’s time for the media to recognize the importance of showing “exactly how they work.

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Russian Trolls: It Can (And Probably will) Happen Again

Aurelija Gackaitė, Rugilė Jakučionytė, Zahaid Rehman, Miriam Siemon, Xuerui Wu and Anastasia Yakubovich

Propaganda takes many shapes and forms, but in recent history, it has been masked under the guise of civic participation and political awareness on social media. This is clearly evident in the case of the 2016 US elections and the now-famous (or infamous) Russian troll factory that was seen actively trying to spread misinformation against the Hilary Clinton campaign, adding support for President Trump in the process.

Since then, several former ‘trolls’ from the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) – seen as one of the major actors in disseminating misinformation in the campaign process – have stated that they were not lured into working for IRA to push any agenda, whether related to civic participation or propaganda; they were simply incentivised through a better salary than most other writing jobs.

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Is Staying in your Filter Bubble what you really want?

Andrea Ruiz Valencia, Nele Pärje, Maxime Paquin, Jija Bhattacharya, Alice Masoni, Christos Kampolis

The Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy aims to overcome the fragmentation of the European market and merge 28 markets into a single digital economy. To prepare the digital grounds for the DSM to flourish, several obstacles need to be tackled, one of which revolves around the personalization of the Internet. There is a disturbing phenomenon in the way online platforms operate today, notably the way algorithms predict and select content we want to consume.

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