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Journalism, Democracy, and the New Political Campaigns

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Presentation by Damian Tambini at the 2019 CMPF Summer School for Journalists and Media Practitioners - Covering Political Campaigns in the Age of Data, Algorithms & Artificial Intelligence

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Journalism, Democracy, and the New Political Campaigns

  1. 1. Journalism, Democracy, and the New Political Campaigns Damian Tambini EUI 2019
  2. 2. Overview of session • Journalism and Democracy: the special responsibility of journalists in European Liberal Democracy • Elections and the challenge of legitimacy: The new propaganda • A Case Study: the journalism of Carole Cadwalladr Discussion exercise: how can we, as journalists, protect democracy and reveal illegality and abuse relating to elections?
  3. 3. To Whom are Journalists Responsible?
  4. 4. To Whom are Journalists Responsible? Owners shareholders the market Editors readers sources ‘Truth’ The public interest democracy Law Social cohesion The State
  5. 5. Meeting for the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge 1851
  6. 6. New Zealand Law Commission 2012 “..in most western-style democracies, including our own, the law accords the news media a special legal status. As a result the news media have legal privileges and exemptions which are not available to ordinary citizens. (…) these are intended to ensure the news media are able to perform their democratic functions.” Media Freedom : Institutional Theories
  7. 7. Lichtenberg on Freedom of the Press “If press institutions or their agents have special rights, it is because the people as a whole have granted them; if the people have granted them, it is because doing so is to the benefit of us all” Judith Lichtenberg Democracy and the Mass Media p 128.
  8. 8. Rights and Duties: the realities of ‘institutional freedom’ Privileges  Tax breaks (e.g. VAT exemption).  Subsidies (e.g. in Scandinavian countries, France).  Public interest defences – e.g. in relation to privacy and defamation.  Carveouts and exemptions (e.g. in Data Protection).  Court deference to self regulation Responsibilities • Observe ethical codes • Respect rights of others • Serve a watchdog role? • Provide information for the public … ‘Self regulate’
  9. 9. Rights and Duties: the realities of ‘institutional freedom’ Privileges  Tax breaks (e.g. VAT exemption).  Subsidies (e.g. in Scandinavian countries, France).  Public interest defences – e.g. in relation to privacy and defamation.  Carveouts and exemptions (e.g. in Data Protection).  Court deference to self regulation Responsibilities • Observe ethical codes • Respect rights of others • Serve a watchdog role? • Provide information for the public … ‘Self regulate’
  10. 10. Part 2: • Protecting elections and the role of journalists: the new political campaigning
  11. 11. “Elections are won and lost on data” • Nigel Farage 7 June 2019 • https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48532869
  12. 12. Why is the shift to data driven elections a problem for democracy?
  13. 13. Potential problems with social media targeting Transparency Fairness Legitimacy Voter autonomy
  14. 14. Potential problems… Regulatory failure? • New targeted propaganda is not regulated like TV Party Political Broadcasts. Spending limits have not been updated • Creating expensive databases of voters - not included in campaign spend • Relatively cheap FB advertising - counts as total campaign spend • Data protection and privacy: breaching data consent? • Problems of enforcement …Longer term: • Filter bubbles, truth and accuracy, ‘dog whistle’ politics? • Transparency and accountability: “Dark Posts” • Psychometric/ individual profiling
  15. 15. Normative concerns* *SeeBarocas(2012) fora discussion Personalization ‘Fakenews’ Redlining Opacity Negativity Radicalization Misinformation Manipulation Disenfranchisement
  16. 16. Regulation of Election Campaigns OVERALL AIMS: ELECTIONS SHOULD BE FAIR, CLEAN, AND TRANSPARENT International standards, election monitoring, domestic election law, broadcasting and media law, journalism ethics. • Donation limits • Spending limits • Specific rules on categories of donators • Blackout periods • Broadcasting regulation (advertising bans, impartiality, ownership rules). • Transparency obligations • Other issues ‘undue influence’, electoral fraud, ‘false statements of fact’.
  17. 17. Election legitimacy The point of regulation is NOT to exclude or disadvantage new political actors or ideas, only to maintain a level playing field in the democratic game
  18. 18. The New Propaganda • Short term: illegal election ‘hacking’ by circumventing or breaking election law • Longer term: undermining the normative legitimacy of democracy itself; ie. voter autonomy, rational critical deliberation as the basis of public choice.
  19. 19. Part 3: Journalism Versus the New Propaganda
  20. 20. What are the implications of data driven democracy for your practice as journalists?
  21. 21. How to investigate this? Who are the key sources? Follow the money? Can you gather ‘dark ads’? How to work with civil society? Know your electoral law
  22. 22. How to write about this? • What metaphors, imagery, expertise? • How to get the story out during election campaigns? • Is it possible to rise above the fray? • ‘Smoking Gun’ illegality versus raising awareness of unethical behaviour
  23. 23. Election Stories in the Digital Age Illegality • Breaching spending limits • Breaching donation limits • Transparency obligations • Shadow Campaigns • Data Consent/ other data protection rules • Foreign involvement Legal but unethical • Targeting mixed messages • Lack of transparency • Bots • ‘astro-turfing’ (fake grassroots) • Psychometric profiling • Profiling • Redlining (excluding some groups)

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