New technologies and democracy

Technology can either be a force for good or a force for ill in a democracy, including in the context of elections. On the negative side, fake news (especially via online political ads) is increasingly used to confuse or manipulate voters; stolen personal data (e.g. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica) can be used to launch micro-targeted campaigns that stoke grievance and incite hatred and violence; and social media can provide a platform or ‘entryway’ for foreign interference in democratic polls. On the positive side, the use of some technologies (e.g. voting software linked to iPads and real-time results updates) can help improve the transparency of, and trust in, electoral processes; and can help ‘open up’ democratic institutions and decisions – making them more accessible and responsive to the People.

URG, via the Human Rights Council and other platforms, will seek to bring democratic States together, to share information and evolving good practice in responding to the threats some applications of technology pose to the integrity of elections and of democracy. The project will also look to understand how some countries, including their electoral commissions, are mobilising technology to increase trust in elections, and to bring democracy closer to the People.

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