IGF 2018 WS #454 Social Media & Democracy: Minimising bad, maximising good

Subtheme(s): 

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

The policy question to be addressed in this session: How can we regulate social media in order to simultaneously minimise the threats and risks posed to democracy by social media, while maximising the democratic opportunities of the internet and digital media.

The specific democratic threats/risks of social media that will be discussed include:
Spread of false and/or misleading information and the impact of social media on the income streams of traditional public interest media.
Personal data capture, manipulation through and lack of transparency in political advertising, micro-targeting and behaviour change.
Intolerance, exclusion (including through opting out) of disadvantaged or marginalized voices, public humiliation, and hate speech.
Echo-chambers, polarization, and hyper-partisanship.

Relevant IGF themes and sub-themes:
Theme: Human rights, gender and youth / Sub-theme: Democracy
Theme: Media & Content / Sub-theme: Fake news
Theme: Cybersecurity, Trust and Privacy / Subtheme: Hate Speech

Format: 

Birds of a Feather - 60 Min

Interventions: 

We have four confirmed speakers for this session who will each share their most recent work to find policy and regulatory solutions to the democratic challenges posed by digital media. Each will also present a question or challenge that they are looking for help with, and and a specific invitation to those in the room to collaborate on that questions or challenge.

The speakers are:

Liz Carolan was co-founder of the Transparent Referendum Initiative, founded in Ireland to help ensure that the recent referendum process allowed for a open, truthful and respectful debate by taking action to increase the transparency of paid, online advertising during the referendum campaign. They did this by building a public, searchable database of political ads being targeted at Irish voters related to the referendum, and information on the social media accounts that are promoting them. This enabled journalists, fact-checkers and members of the public to scrutinise this content. Liz and her colleagues are continuing to investigate the vulnerabilities in our democracy posed by social media, and possible policy and regulatory solutions.

Marianne Elliott is a human rights and democracy advocate who helped found ActionStation, a digitally-powered citizen's movement for democratic engagement in New Zealand. Over four years more than quarter of a million New Zealanders engaged in democratic processes with ActionStation (ranging from Parliamentary petitions and Select Committee Submissions to voting in local and national elections). As well as being excited about the democratic possibilities offered by digital technology, Marianne became concerned at some of the democratic threats she was seeing through this work. She is now undertaking research (funded by the Omidyar Group and the New Zealand Law Foundation) to investigate the possible policy and regulatory responses to those risks. In November she'll present the initial findings of that research.

Martin Tisne has 15 years of experience in helping to build the international movement for openness, transparency and participation, including founding or co-founding two multi-stakeholder initiatives and three NGOs. Prior to joining Omidyar Network, Martin founded the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, the leading donor collaborative in the open government and open data sector. While in this role, he co-founded the Open Government Partnership together with the White House and grew it into a 65-member strong multi-stakeholder initiative. Additionally, Martin initiated the G8 Open Data Charter, the G20 commitment to open data principles, and the International Open Data Charter. Through the Omidyar Network, Martin is currently working with researchers, policy makers and political actors around the world to explore solutions to the threats posed to democracy by digital and social media.

Dr. Anja Kovacs directs the Internet Democracy Project in Delhi, India, which works for an Internet that supports free speech, democracy and social justice in India and beyond. Anja’s research and advocacy focuses especially on questions regarding freedom of expression, cybersecurity and the architecture of Internet governance. She has been a member of the of the Investment Committee of the Digital Defenders Partnership and of the Steering Committee of Best Bits, a global network of civil society members. She has also worked as an international consultant on Internet issues, including for the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, the United Nations Development Programme Asia Pacific and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue, as well as having been a Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India.

Diversity: 

We have four speakers. Three of the speakers are women, one is a man. Three of the speakers are from the Western Europe and Other region (one of them is from New Zealand, so her research overlaps the Asia Pacific region) and one is from the Asia Pacific region. All of the speakers are from civil society, they include researchers, policy advocates, organisers and funders. One speaker is from a developing country. The organisers are both first time IGF session organisers, and three of the speakers are first time speakers.

This session will bring together people from across various regions who are working to identify and develop policy solutions that will minimise the threats and risks posed to democracy by social media, while maximising the democratic opportunities of the internet and digital media.

The specific democratic threats/risks of social media that will be discussed include:
- Spread of false and/or misleading information and the impact of social media on the income streams of traditional public interest media.
- Personal data capture, manipulation through and lack of transparency in political advertising, micro-targeting and behaviour change.
- Intolerance, exclusion (including through opting out) of disadvantaged or marginalized voices, public humiliation, and hate speech.
- Echo-chambers, polarization, and hyper-partisanship.

The speakers for this session include people working on projects in New Zealand, India, France and Ireland to find workable policy solutions to these challenges.

Agenda for this 60 mins session:
Introduction by moderator (Martin Tisne), introducing the topic and the speakers (5 mins)
Short presentation by each speaker of their recent work, plus a key question or challenge on which they are seeking collaboration
- Liz Carolan (5 mins on the Transparent Referendum Initiative in Ireland, key lessons and the next big challenge/question)
- Anya Kovacs (5 mins on the Internet Democracy Project in India, key lessons and the next big challenge/question)
- Marianne Elliott (5 mins on ActionStation and digital media and democracy research in New Zealand, key lessons and the next big challenge/question)
- Martin Tisne (5 mins on Omidyar Network's global work on digital media and democracy, key lessons and the next big challenge/question)
Break outs: (20 mins)
Break up into four groups for discussion on similarities, differences and overlaps in work on this other settings, and opportunities for collaboration
Each group facilitated by one of the speakers, one group will be an online breakout discussion)
Report back from each group 2/3 mins each (10 mins)
Overview and wrap up (including a list of next steps for collaboration) from moderator: Martin Tisne (5 mins)

Discussion Facilitation: 

The discussion will happen in breakout groups. One of those breakouts will be devoted to online participants. Each speaker will be provided with a range of facilitation tools to ensure that the discussion encourages participation from everyone there including:
- 'go around' where each person in the breakout is given 30 seconds to introduce themselves, and say one thing that came up for them in response to the question/challenge offered by the speakers
- sticky note idea-exchange (where participants in the live workshop are each given four sticky notes on which to write e.g. up to four ideas of opportunities for collaboration on the challenges offered by the speakers - and then each person reads one and places it on a large piece of paper or on the wall, going around until all the ideas have been added, but with the proviso that if someone has already said the same as you, you can just stick yours next to theirs without repeating it)
- a similar technique can be used online, but without the sticky notes.
- ranking priorities - participants can be given small coloured dot stickers to rank the ideas that they are most likely to be able to contribute to (this can also be replicated online using Zoom or a similar platform.

Online Participation: 

We propose using a platform like Zoom so that participants can join online. One of the four breakout groups will be an online group, because we've found that it works better to have an entirely online discussion rather than having a few people online in each of the breakouts. Marianne has moderated many online workshops, so she will host the breakout group for online participants which will be able to cover any of the topics discussed, and any of the challenges offered by the other three speakers.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678