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Trump's disinformation 'magaphone': Consequences, first lessons and outlook

02-02-2021

The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 was a significant cautionary example of the offline effects of online disinformation and conspiracy theories. The historic democratic crisis this has sparked − adding to a number of other historic crises the US is currently battling − provides valuable lessons not only for the United States, but also for Europe and the democratic world. The US presidential election and its aftermath saw domestic disinformation emerging as a more visible ...

The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 was a significant cautionary example of the offline effects of online disinformation and conspiracy theories. The historic democratic crisis this has sparked − adding to a number of other historic crises the US is currently battling − provides valuable lessons not only for the United States, but also for Europe and the democratic world. The US presidential election and its aftermath saw domestic disinformation emerging as a more visible immediate threat than disinformation by third countries. While political violence has been the most tangible physical effect of manipulative information, corrosive conspiracy theories have moved from the fringes to the heart of political debate, normalising extremist rhetoric. At the same time, recent developments have confirmed that the lines between domestic and foreign attempts to undermine democracy are increasingly blurred. While the perceived weaknesses in democratic systems are − unsurprisingly − celebrated as a victory for authoritarian state actors, links between foreign interference and domestic terrorism are under growing scrutiny. The question of how to depolarise US society − one of a long list of challenges facing the Biden Administration − is tied to the polarised media environment. The crackdown by major social media platforms on Donald Trump and his supporters has prompted far-right groups to abandon the established information ecosystem to join right-wing social media. This could further accelerate the ongoing fragmentation of the US infosphere, cementing the trend towards separate realities. Ahead of the proposed Democracy Summit − a key objective of the Biden Administration − tempering the 'sword of democracy' has risen to the top of the agenda on both sides of the Atlantic. Against this backdrop, and in line with the EU-US Agenda for Global Change, EU initiatives to counter disinformation − including the recent democracy action plan and the Digital Services Act − may provide a basis for EU-US cooperation on boosting democracy at home and abroad.

Coronavirus in the 'Disunited States of America'

30-10-2020

The potential of the ongoing pandemic to accelerate already existing or underlying trends has become particularly visible ahead of the Presidential election in the United States. The coronavirus crisis has boosted environmental factors that can increase radicalisation, while at the same time intensifying the spread of conspiracy theories that can have a similar effect. The accelerated 'truth decay' and the partisan polarisation of the debate about the handling of the continued surge in Covid 19 cases ...

The potential of the ongoing pandemic to accelerate already existing or underlying trends has become particularly visible ahead of the Presidential election in the United States. The coronavirus crisis has boosted environmental factors that can increase radicalisation, while at the same time intensifying the spread of conspiracy theories that can have a similar effect. The accelerated 'truth decay' and the partisan polarisation of the debate about the handling of the continued surge in Covid 19 cases and deaths will likely further undermine trust in institutions, while accelerated societal anxiety could increase the potential for post-election tension.

The evolving consequences of the coronavirus 'infodemic': How viral false coronavirus-related information affects people and societies across the world

23-09-2020

Massive waves of information, including extensive amounts of false information have accompanied the coronavirus pandemic. False information is being spread by a number of different actors for various reasons. Deliberately deceptive (geo-)political disinformation campaigns to undermine democracies – including the European Union (EU) – have been spread by authoritarian state actors and their proxies. Extremist groups have exploited the situation to spread their messaging. Others have propagated misleading ...

Massive waves of information, including extensive amounts of false information have accompanied the coronavirus pandemic. False information is being spread by a number of different actors for various reasons. Deliberately deceptive (geo-)political disinformation campaigns to undermine democracies – including the European Union (EU) – have been spread by authoritarian state actors and their proxies. Extremist groups have exploited the situation to spread their messaging. Others have propagated misleading information for financial gain. At the same time, a combination of widespread anxiety as well as increased use of social media during lockdowns in many countries have provide fertile ground for 'organic' false information and conspiracy theories by individual users who do not intentionally want to deceive anyone, but inadvertently become part of the problem by spreading and/or amplifying misleading messages. The repercussions of the 'infodemic' are still evolving, but have impacted the ability of authorities to effectively deal with the pandemic, with the infodemic is aggravating the spread of the virus itself. Different regions of the world have been challenged by a variety of types of false information and both general and region-specific narratives – many of which have impacted public health, the economy, geopolitics and societal stability.

Foreign interference in democracies: Understanding the threat, and evolving responses

22-09-2020

Across the world, democratic societies, institutions, processes and values are under increasing external and internal attack. The coronavirus crisis has, meanwhile, exacerbated the systemic struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, prompting authoritarian state and non-state actors to deploy a broad range of overt and covert instruments in their bid to destabilise their democratic counterparts. Against this backdrop, and following a string of examples of hostile meddling by authoritarian actors ...

Across the world, democratic societies, institutions, processes and values are under increasing external and internal attack. The coronavirus crisis has, meanwhile, exacerbated the systemic struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, prompting authoritarian state and non-state actors to deploy a broad range of overt and covert instruments in their bid to destabilise their democratic counterparts. Against this backdrop, and following a string of examples of hostile meddling by authoritarian actors to undermine democratic governing processes in countries such as Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States (US), Canada and Australia, the focus on foreign interference continues to sharpen. Among the EU's institutions, the European Parliament − arguably the flagship of European democracy − is pushing the policy response to foreign interference to the top of the political agenda. Among other initiatives and actions, in October 2019 it passed a resolution on countering foreign interference and has set up a special committee on foreign interference, whose constituent meeting is scheduled to take place in September 2020.

Disruption by technology: Impacts on politics, economics and society

21-09-2020

Technological development has long been considered as a disruptive force, provoking change at many levels, from the routine daily activities of individuals to dramatic competition between global superpowers. This analysis examines disruption caused by technologies in a series of key areas of politics, economics and society. It focuses on seven fields: the economic system, the military and defence, democratic debates and the 'infosphere', social norms, values and identities, international relations ...

Technological development has long been considered as a disruptive force, provoking change at many levels, from the routine daily activities of individuals to dramatic competition between global superpowers. This analysis examines disruption caused by technologies in a series of key areas of politics, economics and society. It focuses on seven fields: the economic system, the military and defence, democratic debates and the 'infosphere', social norms, values and identities, international relations, and the legal and regulatory system. It also presents surveillance as an example of how technological disruption across these domains can converge to propel other phenomena. The key disruptive force of 2020 is non-technological, namely coronavirus. The pandemic is used here as an opportunity to examine how technological disruption interacts with other forms of disruption.

Protecting, promoting and projecting Europe's values and interests in the world

11-09-2020

In its foreign policy, the European Union (EU) is committed to 'promoting its values and interests', which include democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law, pluralism, peace and security, and multilateralism. Worldwide, however, the values and interests that the EU stands for are under mounting pressure, pressure that the pandemic has further intensified. Growing strategic great power rivalry − witnessed in the 'extraterritorialisation' of US-China tensions, growing pressure on human rights ...

In its foreign policy, the European Union (EU) is committed to 'promoting its values and interests', which include democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law, pluralism, peace and security, and multilateralism. Worldwide, however, the values and interests that the EU stands for are under mounting pressure, pressure that the pandemic has further intensified. Growing strategic great power rivalry − witnessed in the 'extraterritorialisation' of US-China tensions, growing pressure on human rights, and the (strategic) undermining of multilateralism − have left something of a moral global leadership vacuum. The need to reinforce the protection, promotion and projection of the EU's values and interests in the world has thus become much more pressing. At the same time, attacks on democracy worldwide during the pandemic have sparked increased global public awareness about fundamental rights, equality and human dignity – values at the heart of the European project. In this sense, the pandemic could be a turning-point when the EU seizes the moment to protect, promote and project its values and visions for the common global good in the century ahead.

Belarus on the brink

25-08-2020

As usual in Belarus, the 9 August presidential election was marred by fraud, repression and state violence against the opposition. As expected, the long-standing President, Aleksander Lukashenko, claimed a landslide victory. What was unusual this time, however, was the scale of Belarusians' disappointment: peaceful protests and strikes spread throughout the entire country in response to the stolen election, despite brutal crackdowns. What started as a national crisis now represents a wider struggle ...

As usual in Belarus, the 9 August presidential election was marred by fraud, repression and state violence against the opposition. As expected, the long-standing President, Aleksander Lukashenko, claimed a landslide victory. What was unusual this time, however, was the scale of Belarusians' disappointment: peaceful protests and strikes spread throughout the entire country in response to the stolen election, despite brutal crackdowns. What started as a national crisis now represents a wider struggle between truth and lies, democracy and autocracy, raising the stakes for both Minsk and Moscow, whose nervousness has spilled over into mounting aggression.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States III

17-06-2020

The spread of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted countries to take extensive and far-reaching measures to tackle the consequences of the outbreak. Apart from curbing the spread of the disease, these measures have also posed legal and economic challenges, significantly affecting people's lives. Due to the nature of the virus, citizens' rights and freedoms have been curtailed, inter alia affecting their freedom of movement and assembly, as well as the right to conduct economic activities. Whilst ...

The spread of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted countries to take extensive and far-reaching measures to tackle the consequences of the outbreak. Apart from curbing the spread of the disease, these measures have also posed legal and economic challenges, significantly affecting people's lives. Due to the nature of the virus, citizens' rights and freedoms have been curtailed, inter alia affecting their freedom of movement and assembly, as well as the right to conduct economic activities. Whilst the measures are currently being relaxed, there is debate in some Member States over whether the measures were justified and proportionate. Some Member States resorted to declaring a 'state of emergency', whilst others did not, either because they have no such mechanism in their constitutional framework or because they chose a different path, giving special powers to certain institutions or using and modifying existing legislation. In either case, democratic scrutiny over the situation has been highly important, making parliamentary oversight crucial to ensure the rule of law and respect for fundamental democratic principles. This briefing covers the following countries: Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. It focuses on three key aspects: i) the constitutional framework of the state of emergency or legitimation of the emergency legislation; ii) the specific measures adopted; and iii) the extent of parliamentary oversight exercised on the adopted measures. This briefing is the third in a series aimed at providing a comparative overview of Member States' institutional responses to the coronavirus crisis. The first in the series gives an overview of the responses in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain, while the second covers Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Slovenia.

Eastern Partnership 3.0: Principles, priorities, and prospects

15-06-2020

The geopolitical, economic and security situation in Europe has evolved significantly in the past 10 years since the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was first created in 2009. With the growing pressure on democracies and multilateralism worldwide, an aggressive Russia under Vladimir Putin and an increasingly influential China, the role of the European Union – a major global champion of democracy and multilateralism – and its responsibility for sustainable stability in the EaP region are growing. Against ...

The geopolitical, economic and security situation in Europe has evolved significantly in the past 10 years since the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was first created in 2009. With the growing pressure on democracies and multilateralism worldwide, an aggressive Russia under Vladimir Putin and an increasingly influential China, the role of the European Union – a major global champion of democracy and multilateralism – and its responsibility for sustainable stability in the EaP region are growing. Against this backdrop, the new 'geopolitical' European Commission and the EU's High Representative have put forward a proposal for the EaP policy beyond 2020, focused on 'reinforcing resilience'.

The EU's response to the coronavirus 'infodemic'

12-06-2020

In parallel to the coronavirus pandemic, governments across the world are having to tackle a viral 'infodemic'; a wave of coronavirus-related information including hoaxes, conspiracy theories and disinformation by third parties. In many countries, the situation is hampering freedom of expression. During the June plenary session, the European Commission and the Council are scheduled to make statements on the fight against disinformation campaigns during the Covid-19 crisis and the impact on freedom ...

In parallel to the coronavirus pandemic, governments across the world are having to tackle a viral 'infodemic'; a wave of coronavirus-related information including hoaxes, conspiracy theories and disinformation by third parties. In many countries, the situation is hampering freedom of expression. During the June plenary session, the European Commission and the Council are scheduled to make statements on the fight against disinformation campaigns during the Covid-19 crisis and the impact on freedom of expression.

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