DigEnlight2019 (IV). Media and Democracy

Notes from the conference Democracy and Media in the Digital Era, organized by the Digital Enlightenment Forum and the Delegation to the European Union of the Government of Catalonia, and held in Brussels, Belgium, on 14 November 2019. More notes on this event: digenlight2019

Media and Democracy
Chair: Jo Pierson, VUB

The media are necessary for a good functioning democracy. At the same time the media and certainly also the social media with their massive data collection and use for behaviour predictability, can have negative effects on the democratic processes.

Ulrick Trolle Smed, Member of Cabinet at European Commission

Disinformation campaigns damage democracy as they reduce the ability of citizens to make informed decisions.

Digital platforms are beginning to address the issue of advertising. We have also seen new policies to ensure the integrity of online services.

The area where we can advance more is about empowering consumers. To provide more information to consumers on advertising, to be able to change their preferences, etc.

We also have to be able to empower researchers. That data available can be used for academic purposes in an easy way. Privacy protection and quality research have to go hand in hand.

Platforms should also be more accountable for their actions.

Wout van Wijk (News Media Europe)

Media freedom is the central thing. It has to be defended both from economic and political powers. Media is not an ordinary sector, it deserves especial protection.

The reality is that media are increasingly losing trust and the trust level is already very low.

Ironically, social media has damaged trust in media, but news are being more and more shared through social media.

There is a business, there is people making money putting out false news. And an important problem is that little money is made out of that (for the click) in comparison to the damage being made to media in particular and to democracy in general.

Maintaining pluralism is a means to fight fake news. Resources too. Media literacy is crucial to understand not only what is and what not fake news, but to understand the importance of its impact.

Paying for content —putting more resources that allow for professionalization— is one of the solutions, but not everyone or not all cultures are so prone to paying for content.

Solutions, though, can be replicated elsewhere: we have to be sure that whatever we implement, we do it right.

Ania Helseth (Facebook)

Facebook works to remove fake accounts (one million daily) and fake information. They try to raise awareness on the issue. But Facebook ‘cannot be the judge of the truth’. By raising awareness, it is expected that users themselves will judge and remove bad content or restrain from publishing it.

Facebook has it difficult to totally remove bad content, but can help in reducing its impact.

Facebook also provides data to researchers, to better understand how fake news spread, how to avoid it, etc.

Stefania Milan (Univ Amsterdam)

Social media are increasingly a pathway towards news access. But do not have much data about this.

Media literacy is very low, even within media students! This problem gets worse when socia media intermediate the access to news: people tend not to know the real source of news.

Content curation at social media platforms may not be a good idea: cons could be worse than pros.

We need to find new ways to create algorithmic auditing.

We should be more aware about our information diets. On the one hand, to be aware of our own information diet, but on the other hand on the collective information diet of the population. It is not about discouraging people from social media, but on an informed use.

Mikko Salo (Founder Faktabaari)

Internet is seriously broken and reality in social media is distorted. Information sharing is concentrated in a few platforms, which has an impact on how one gets their information.

Big media will find it easy to find ways to strive, but local media urgently need a new business model, one that is based on trust, or they will disappear.

Most social media platforms actually are not “media” platforms but advertising companies. This contributes to better understand the way the work.


Democracy and Media in the Digital Era (2019)