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Democracy in the Digital Age Roundtable

Democracy in the Digital Age Roundtable

15th February 2018
14.00-16.00

Our democratic institutions have a long and proud tradition. Recent quantum leaps in data analytics and Big Data mean that our electoral processes can be influenced, circumvented and undermined in ways that could not possibly have been foreseen by the architects of our democracy.   

Our APGDA event will examine the ways in which such undue exercise of influence can occur. By mining social media platforms for data, so-called psychometrics experts use Big Data technology to create psychological profiles of users, which in turn enables them to target them with personalised political advertisements, making use of trigger words the profiling suggests will work on individuals. Other forms of influencing through cyber space include ‘astro turfing’, whereby people are hired to pretend to be grass roots activists and ‘botswarming’ whereby bots are used to create fake online accounts to create the illusion of widespread support for a given political view.

On a philosophical level, one might wonder whether the forms of undue influencing online constitute a major paradigm shift and whether they are in fact, undue. After all, money has shaped politics since the days of the ancient Greeks. We accept that Amazon, Google and other ‘Big Beasts’ target us with personalised commercials and product offers. Aren’t personalised political campaign advertisements just the logical extension of this? Our roundtable will bring together politicians, data analysts and campaigners to address these questions.

However, as a thought-leading platform, the APGDA’s ambition goes beyond simply bemoaning the state of things. Recent technological advances make it feasible to use Blockchain technology to make citizen participation online safer and easier to access. Findings ways to make political participation possible could be vital for our democratic systems of the future.

 

News about foreign interference in the electoral processes of the US and UK have made headline news. Whether these claims will be verified or not, the debate has, on a superficial level, raised concerns about the fragility of safeguards to protect democratic elections from such undue interference.

 

Location
The houses of parliament
SW1 0AA
United Kingdom