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.

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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?”

The Game of Lobbying. Will Europe Take Real Actions

Transparency in the Era of Fake News

Tamam Abusalama, Darya Tronenko, Mariana Franca da Costa Lemos, Hofman Aline, Rafael Ramiro, Celia Iglesias Berberana

A Broad Concentration in Brussels

Over 25.000. This the estimated number of lobbyists working in regular presence in Brussels, shaping aand influencing decision making in a transnational sphere, according to Transparency International EU. This increasing number of lobbying companies is tied to governments and can lead to the transformation of democracy from civil representation to representation of interests. This transformation is new and quite influential.  It’s a business-based-relationship; lobbying companies are looking to increase their profits through many ways. There is an incentive to trade money for access, which gives lobbying companies the ability to achieve their agenda and objectives.

This trend has also changed the face of media and fake news, especially with the revolutions in communication technologies and social networks. Take, for instance, the increasing relevance of media in EU lobbying processes; a closer investigation of media coverage on EU legislation is necessary to understand who’s voices are heard and why. Without this investigation, fake news will continue being spread for the benefit of a growing number of different actors, including lobbyists. EU Governments are tackling this problem with regulations, but one question stands out: Whose job is it to fight disinformation, if anyone’s? Should it be the responsibility of tech companies, lobbyists, governments, or readers themselves? Well, working together in a multidisciplinary approach is a way to minimize bias and maximize democracy.

Continue reading “The Game of Lobbying. Will Europe Take Real Actions”

Being Responsible in the Age of Fake News

Catalina Barja, Elizabeth Castillo, Darya Chernokova, Alfonso Alonso Herrera, Hande Karasu and Sangam Silpakar

The internet revolution and the rise of Web 2.0 have not only disrupted society with abundance of information but also have empowered citizens by allowing them to participate in content generation process. Users are no longer passive participants of media. They not only create contents but reach millions of other people by self-mass communication through social networking sites. Unfortunately, such freedom has caused interference in the flow of information through the distribution of fake news.

Although the existence of fake news can be traced back to 1439 in the name of yellow journalism and propaganda, the term gained its popularity due to the US Presidential election in 2016. During this period, false news across the political spectrum gained more visibility in social media. A survey conducted by Eurobarometer in all the European Union member states in 2018 shows that online media users encounter more fake news than traditional media users. While the term ‘Fake News’ is believed to be a populist term, the High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) formed by the European Commission to tackle fake news has instead termed it ‘online disinformation’. Nevertheless, in a democratic era where everyone’s opinion is valued, who is to define what is true and false, as “one man’s fake news is another’s truth-telling”.

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Towards a Digital and Media-Literate Europe: a Long and Winding Road?

Lorin Akbiyik, Rovena Carvalho Ferreira, Rodelio Concepcion, Andira Figueroa Vargas, Sasha Miller, Sara Teklay

In the core of today’s digital society, social media reigns supreme. It combines social interactions, entertainment and source of news, not to mention that it created a shift from users as mere spectators to users also as creators of content. On your timelines you see not only posts from the friends, groups and pages that you follow (which normally already include a large amount of clickbait, but also, due to the work of algorithms, suggested posts come around often. To be able to comb through this sea of information floating around – which may include hate speech, fake news and other harmful content – and distinguish what are reliable sources or not, being a digital and media literate is paramount.

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Digital and media illiterates are easier prey to online fake news, senior citizens are considered more vulnerable in this scenario.

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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!”

Social Media as a Promising Arena for Public Debate

Dimitra Kagioglou, Dinesh George Lourdes, Evgeniya Kreslova, Maria Oliva, Nele Mirjam Werner, Siyu Xu

Once upon a time, the political debates were provided to the public through media reporting. Now within a minute we are able to get informed instantly via social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube are a new communication field being used by the EU Institutions to communicate with the audiences and particularly with young citizens.

Could this imply that we are in front of an alternative public sphere shaped by social media, that can rouse young citizens to engage in the EU debate? Well, potentially.

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