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Technology and social polarisation

07-03-2019

With the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it became clear how technologies such as social media and techniques such as psychological profiling can be combined in election campaigns with worrying effects. Personalised political messaging is highly automated. It starts and ends with social media, which provides both the data for categorising users and the medium for targeting them with personalised messages. Messages might be designed to favour a particular candidate or to encourage widespread discord ...

With the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it became clear how technologies such as social media and techniques such as psychological profiling can be combined in election campaigns with worrying effects. Personalised political messaging is highly automated. It starts and ends with social media, which provides both the data for categorising users and the medium for targeting them with personalised messages. Messages might be designed to favour a particular candidate or to encourage widespread discord and mistrust. In either case, it could lead to more polarised societies in which citizens share less common ground and are less understanding of those with different political ideologies, attitudes to populism, or perspectives on specific topics such as immigration. These same technologies and techniques also shape trends in news production and consumption. As newspaper sales dwindle, outlets increasingly rely upon ad-revenue generated by clicks, making extensive use of social media platforms and user profiling. Public debate increasingly occurs via these social media platforms in which citizens, politicians, companies and bots communicate directly to each other without the traditional filters of journalistic standards and editorial oversight. It has been suggested that, where citizens increasingly rely on such platforms for news, they risk entering so-called ‘filter bubbles’ in which they are exposed to a narrow range of perspectives oriented around their own profiles, shielded from contrasting views, in a broad trend that could also lead to more polarised societies. In this context, STOA launched two studies to explore the mechanisms by which these technologies and techniques may foster polarisation in Europe. One study approached the question with reference to trends in the production and consumption of news media, while the other focussed on trends in political campaigning and communication strategies.

Polarisation and the news media in Europe

07-03-2019

• Across Europe there is as yet little evidence to support the idea that increased exposure to news featuring like-minded or opposing views leads to the widespread polarisation of attitudes. Though some studies have found that both can strengthen the attitudes of a minority who already hold strong views. • Most studies of news use on social media have failed to find evidence of echo chambers and/or filter bubbles, where people are over-exposed to like-minded views. Some studies even find evidence ...

• Across Europe there is as yet little evidence to support the idea that increased exposure to news featuring like-minded or opposing views leads to the widespread polarisation of attitudes. Though some studies have found that both can strengthen the attitudes of a minority who already hold strong views. • Most studies of news use on social media have failed to find evidence of echo chambers and/or filter bubbles, where people are over-exposed to like-minded views. Some studies even find evidence that it increases the likelihood of exposure to opposing views. • The extent to which people self-select news sources in Europe based on their political preferences, as well as the extent to which news outlets produce partisan coverage, still varies greatly by country. • In addition to differences between European countries, comparative research often tends to show that the US has much higher levels of partisan news consumption and polarisation, making it difficult to generalise from these findings. • There are large gaps in our understanding of the relationship between the news media and polarisation, particularly outside of Western and Northern Europe, and particularly concerning our knowledge of new, more partisan digital-born news sources.

Vanjski autor

DG, EPRS

Polarisation and the use of technology in political campaigns and communication

07-03-2019

This report offers a comprehensive overview of the relationship between technology, democracy and the polarisation of public discourse. Technology is inherently political, and the ways in which it is designed and used have ongoing implications for participation, deliberation, and democracy. Algorithms, automation, big data analytics and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly embedded in everyday life in democratic societies; this report provides an in-depth analysis of the technological ...

This report offers a comprehensive overview of the relationship between technology, democracy and the polarisation of public discourse. Technology is inherently political, and the ways in which it is designed and used have ongoing implications for participation, deliberation, and democracy. Algorithms, automation, big data analytics and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly embedded in everyday life in democratic societies; this report provides an in-depth analysis of the technological affordances that enhance and undermine political decision-making, both now and in the future. To conclude, we formulate principles and policy options for fostering a better relationship between digital technology and public life.

Vanjski autor

DG, EPRS

The State of the Union [What Think Tanks are thinking]

07-09-2018

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will deliver his last State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday 12 September, a little more than eight months before the next European elections. In this annual speech in Strasbourg, President Juncker is expected to take stock of the state of play on his ten priorities for the 2014-2019 political cycle and present his remaining initiatives on building a 'more united, stronger and more democratic Union'. Juncker ...

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will deliver his last State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday 12 September, a little more than eight months before the next European elections. In this annual speech in Strasbourg, President Juncker is expected to take stock of the state of play on his ten priorities for the 2014-2019 political cycle and present his remaining initiatives on building a 'more united, stronger and more democratic Union'. Juncker’s 2017 address was marked by cautious optimism: since then, whilst the European economy has continued to recover, several other challenges have proved persistent. This note offers a selection of links to commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU and possible reforms. Brexit-related publications can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are thinking’ from July 2018. Papers on migration are available in an earlier edition in this series, published in June. Those on euro-zone reform appear in a previous publication in June.

Challenges for the euro area [What Think Tanks are thinking]

08-06-2018

In June, the Heads of State or Government of the countries sharing the euro currency will discuss ways to improve the functioning of the euro area. French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed an ambitious reform plan, but Germany, the euro area’s economic powerhouse, is more cautious. Despite continued growth, after years of stagnation, the euro area needs better governance to meet future challenges, economic analysts say. They add that recent political developments in Italy may complicate the ...

In June, the Heads of State or Government of the countries sharing the euro currency will discuss ways to improve the functioning of the euro area. French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed an ambitious reform plan, but Germany, the euro area’s economic powerhouse, is more cautious. Despite continued growth, after years of stagnation, the euro area needs better governance to meet future challenges, economic analysts say. They add that recent political developments in Italy may complicate the drive for reform, as could unstable political situations elsewhere. This note brings together commentaries, analyses and studies by major international think tanks and research institutes on challenges facing the euro area and related issues. Earlier publications on the topic can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking' published in December 2017.

The European Union: A year of hope [What Think Tanks are thinking]

15-12-2017

The self-confidence of the European Union improved markedly during the past year after the 'annus horribilis' of 2016 when the EU faced a 'poly-crisis' of a shaky euro-area economy, the Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump as US President, migration pressures, growing Russian assertiveness and apparent foreign-policy drift. The euro-area economy has since entered onto a clear recovery path, popular support for the EU has increased in many countries, Eurosceptic political parties have made smaller ...

The self-confidence of the European Union improved markedly during the past year after the 'annus horribilis' of 2016 when the EU faced a 'poly-crisis' of a shaky euro-area economy, the Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump as US President, migration pressures, growing Russian assertiveness and apparent foreign-policy drift. The euro-area economy has since entered onto a clear recovery path, popular support for the EU has increased in many countries, Eurosceptic political parties have made smaller than expected gains in several elections, Brexit negotiations have made progress and, according to some analysts and politicians, EU foreign and security policy has developed a global strategy backed by moves towards an integrated defence. 'The wind is back in the European sails,’ said Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, in September. 2017, the year when the EU marked the 60th anniversary of the European Union's founding Treaty of Rome, generated much creative thinking on how to re-launch or strengthen both the EU-27 and the euro area. This note offers links to selected recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU in 2017 and its outlook in several important areas.

The State of the Union [What Think Tanks are thinking]

15-09-2017

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, laid out his vision of the European Union in his annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 September 2017. He noted that the overall outlook has changed for the better over the past year, notably thanks to an accelerating economic recovery. ‘The wind is back in the European sails,’ he declared. Much interest focussed on Juncker’s advocacy of various eurozone and EU institutional reforms. He proposed ...

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, laid out his vision of the European Union in his annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 September 2017. He noted that the overall outlook has changed for the better over the past year, notably thanks to an accelerating economic recovery. ‘The wind is back in the European sails,’ he declared. Much interest focussed on Juncker’s advocacy of various eurozone and EU institutional reforms. He proposed the designation of a eurozone finance minister, who would preside over the Eurogroup, as well as being a member of the Commission. He supported the development of a European Monetary Fund. However, he opted against the creation of a separate eurozone budget, preferring a dedicated budget line within a general EU budget. He also said there should not be a separate eurozone parliament either. He favoured combining the presidencies of the Commission and the European Council, and he supported the idea a new, additional transnational constituency for the European elections. On the policy front, he advocated a pro-innovation industrial strategy, a reinforced social pillar, an authority to supervise fairness in the single market, better handling of migratory flows, and new trade agreements. This note offers links to commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU and possible reforms. Brexit-related publications can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking. Earlier papers on the general condition of the EU are available in another edition in this series, published in April 2017.

Challenges for the EU [What Think Tanks are thinking]

24-02-2017

The European Union faces challenges, such as in relation to migration and stagnant economic growth, which test its ability to offer solutions to its citizens. Some politicians and analysts have called for a reform of the EU to shore up popular support for European integration 60 years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which led to the creation of what is now the Union. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the ...

The European Union faces challenges, such as in relation to migration and stagnant economic growth, which test its ability to offer solutions to its citizens. Some politicians and analysts have called for a reform of the EU to shore up popular support for European integration 60 years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which led to the creation of what is now the Union. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU and possible reforms. Earlier papers on the State of the Union can be found in a September edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking.' Other issues in the series offer links to reports on euro area reform and the impact of Brexit on the EU. They were published in September 2016 and in February 2017 respectively.

The 2016 Elections in the United States: Effects on the EU-US Relationship

17-01-2017

Despite (or because of) Donald Trump’s various campaign statements, it is hard to predict confidently what path his administration will take in a wide range of foreign-policy areas. It is however possible to identify key issues and challenges in EU-US relations during his presidency. This briefing provides an overview of issues where US policy may change sharply during the next four years and what this may mean for the EU. Less interventionism, less commitment to NATO and a retreat from trade liberalization ...

Despite (or because of) Donald Trump’s various campaign statements, it is hard to predict confidently what path his administration will take in a wide range of foreign-policy areas. It is however possible to identify key issues and challenges in EU-US relations during his presidency. This briefing provides an overview of issues where US policy may change sharply during the next four years and what this may mean for the EU. Less interventionism, less commitment to NATO and a retreat from trade liberalization could be central to Trump’s presidency. Transatlantic relations would be affected by US actions such as rapprochement with Russia and a softer line on the Ukraine conflict, alignment with Assad and Putin in Syria, extreme counterterrorism measures, abandoning the Iran nuclear deal, and unconditional support for Israel. Confrontation with China over trade and regional security, and reversal of environmental policies will also have repercussions for the EU. In order to mitigate all these risks, the EU must at least entrench existing cooperation with the US before trying to enhance it. It can The do so by reaffirming European unity and solving threats to its integration, by becoming a better security “producer” and by “thickening” interparliamentary exchanges.

Vanjski autor

Nicolas BOUCHET (The German Marshall Fund of the United States, USA)

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