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Locked out of Social Platforms: An iCS Symposium on Challenges to Studying Disinformation (27-28 October 2018), The IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Call for Papers

After years of exalting rhetoric praising the democratisation of public discourse with the diffusion of the internet, informed observers have sounded a note of alarm about the scope for the distortion of electoral processes in democratic countries. The Brexit campaign, along with recent elections in the US and France have been linked to disinformation, misinformation or propaganda campaigns seeking to strategically diffuse content that heightens partisanship and erodes the general trust in democratic institutions.

In the run-up to the 2018 US mid-term elections,  the aftermath of the Irish abortion referendum and the Italian general elections, this two-day symposium aims to address the topical question of how independent, ethical research on dis/misinformation in political communication can be conducted in a corporate environment that favours platform ‘lockdowns’ and the throttling of API access in response to the strategic use of data analytics, bots, trolls, fake news, and dis/misinformation operations in electoral politics, public information campaigns, and activist communication.

What are the challenges for independent academic research examining these developments? How can researchers investigate disinformation in a context of narrowing access to trace data?  How can these challenges be met, and what meaningful ways can be imagined for making social media platforms more accountable to the democratic constituencies where they operate? How is such disruptive communication designed, executed, with what effects and how are these measured? What data policies can be envisaged to strike a balance between safeguarding privacy and enabling academic research into the impact dis/misinformation or propaganda campaigns have on social media and beyond, in the attitudes and behaviours of their users?

 

Organizers: