Computational Politics: How to Respond to the Techniques and Technologies of Persuasion and Manipulation?
This ECPR section will explore responses to the techniques and technologies of persuasion and manipulation used by political parties, interest groups, and foreign governments to influence citizens' behavior before and during election campaigns.
Every two years, the data generated in the world is doubling. The number of connected devices is projected to reach a staggering 29.3 billion by 2023. Although these numbers hide substantial variation between highly connected nations and others, the datafication of human life is a global phenomenon that imposes a high level of transparency on individuals while allowing online platforms to develop and use sophisticated micro-targeting techniques in complete opacity.
In the past two decades, online platforms have indeed accumulated vast amounts of personal data. Consumer data is collected from numerous sources (e.g., online behavior) and across devices (e.g., smartphones) thanks to behavioral tracking (e.g., cookies). Citizens have agreed, most of the time unknowingly, to exchange their personal data and metadata (i.e., the data about the data such as the device used, location) for "free" services (e.g., web referencing, instant messaging). By aggregating and correlating data from these numerous sources, online platforms have gained the capacity to identify and profile citizens with great precision across devices, time, and space. This new psychographic profiling capacity has raised ethical and governance concerns among experts and populations.
Computational Politics is often used to describe these methods of calculation and persuasion, which have become more visible in part due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. These new data-driven advertising techniques capitalize on large audiences and machine-learning algorithms of online platforms designed to tailor relevant content to each online user. The gatekeeping role of online platforms is magnified by the sheer size of content available digitally. The fact that information selection is made by an algorithm, designed and developed in complete opacity by a corporation, challenges the role of the state to protect its citizens and institutions.
This section will explore how to respond to the dangers and side effects of computational politics. The responses are both necessary and multiple, i.e., in the form of inter-state negotiations (e.g., various forms of regulations, standards, or fresh interpretations of existing international law) and citizen initiatives (digital media literacy, civic tech). Furthermore, when large swaths of people have been drenched in false stories and narratives that influence their participation in society, it becomes necessary to consider what it means to leave misunderstandings of facts to fester, or to attempt to disabuse fellow citizens of falsehoods.
This session will address questions such as:
• How to protect citizens and democratic institutions from the most recent computational politics techniques and technologies?
• How to regulate the most recent computational politics techniques and technologies?
• What is (will be) the role of online platforms and GAFAM in politics?
• What can we learn from past technology advances and their impact on politics, political campaigns, and civil society?
• How to reinforce the resilience of liberal democracies – both in terms of value and processes?
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We are looking forward to reading your papers/abstracts.
||Digital technologies and new forms of negotiation and participation
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