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Strengthening Digital Democracy

Strengthening Digital Democracy

Overview

With ongoing anxiety and high-level investigations of foreign interference in recent elections, it seems that democratic transparency and accountability face increasing pressure in the digital age. This project will expand the Oxford Internet Institute’s investigative capacity and programme of policy engagement, allowing us to support critical public conversations about the role of “computational propaganda” in the increasingly technology- and data-driven political campaigns that characterise contemporary democracies.

We have a three-part programme, including:

  1. an investigative programme of observing computational propaganda and political communication during critical moments—such as elections—in democracies around the world
  2. a strategic relationship programme to raise our capacity to manage ties with global policy makers, journalists, and other investigators
  3. a civic engagement programme to deepen our collaborations with civil society groups, and to help transfer knowledge and responsive-capacity to a wider network of democracy activists and advocates.

Key Information

Funder:
  • Omidyar Network
  • Project dates:
    June 2018 - May 2021

    Major Areas of Research

    Covid-19

    The global pandemic has brought to the fore the pressing problems caused by disinformation, leading many scholars to study the “infodemic” that is accompanying and exacerbating the public health crisis. Disinformation about the virus has already led to serious health repercussions in countries around the world. Our research on COVID-related disinformation looks at the prominence of stories by junk news outlets and state-backed media outlets on social media. ComProp researchers are also investigating the systems that help these junk news stories to succeed: from the online advertising ecosystem to incentives on social media platforms.

    Elections

    The tools of computational propaganda are often deployed around elections, as various actors seek to sway public opinion through legitimate and illegitimate means. Our research on disinformation and elections looks at information-sharing on social media​ by members of the electorate, foreign influence campaigns, and the role of these campaigns in political polarization. We have conducted research on elections in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, and Asia.

    Tech Platforms and Governance

    Our team is interested not only in the content of disinformation but also in the technologies and systems that shape the information landscape. To this end, our research examines the various forces constraining and enabling computational propaganda: how tech companies incentivise and amplify problematic content, how governments seek to regulate these companies, and how tech platforms themselves are responding.

    State Sponsored Disinformation

    The tools of computational propaganda are increasingly deployed by states to shape public opinion, sow distrust, and create confusion both at home and abroad. Our research on state-sponsored disinformation looks at the proliferation of “cyber troops” in countries around the world, the reach and contents of state-sponsored media outlets, and the impacts of foreign influence operations.

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