The Design 4 Democracy Coalition is a growing group of democracy and human rights organizations around the world that is committed to ensuring that the technology industry embraces democracy as a core design principle. Coming from a diverse collection of regions, political ideologies and backgrounds, the Coalition is united in a shared commitment that technology platforms and products should help build a more just and democratic world. The public square is increasingly digital. More than ever, political views and identities are formed online. By developing a forum for coordination and support within the democracy community on technology issues, and by creating an institutional channel for communication between the democracy community and the tech industry, the Design 4 Democracy Coalition is working to strengthen democracy in the digital age.

News and Events

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Chinese Influence Detected during Taiwanese Elections

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led by Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have written a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking for an investigation into “CCP attempts to erode democratic processes and norms around the world threaten U.S. partnerships and prosperity,” particularly in regards to Taiwan. They suggest that organized social media campaigns targeted the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), its candidates and President Tsai Ing-wen during local elections in November. Observers in Taiwan and elsewhere have said that the Chinese government supported these opposition campaigns with different forms of computational propaganda, and the Senators’ letter suggested they find the allegations credible and want them investigated.

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US Senate Releases Two Reports on Russian Interference in 2016 Elections

The US Senate Intelligence Committee released two externally produced reports that provide further data on the 2016 national elections, including one partly authored by D4D Advisory Board member Philip Howard, Director of the Oxford Internet Institute in collaboration with Graphika, a data analytics firm, and a second by New Knowledge, another company studying social media and disinformation. The reports find much broader usage of social media accounts linked across platforms, particularly targeting conservative voters and African Americans. Platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have received less attention in the media, but were also found to have been used by groups such as the Russian Internet Research Agency, while the researchers also suggested that social media platforms would need to share more data to fully understand the full scope of the campaigns. The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to release its own report on these issues in the near future.

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International IDEA Collaborates with Electoral Tribunal to Support Digital Media Unit

D4D network partner International IDEA has entered into a collaboration with the Electoral Tribunal of Panama in order to provide support to the newly created Digital Media Unit. The unit’s mandate is twofold. On one side, it is in charge of the online communication of the Tribunal in terms of Electoral information, providing a key line of information to the population through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp with the key electoral information. On the other, the Digital Media Unit is spearheading the fight against disinformation, with a 24/7 monitoring of social media war room, supporting the Tribunal to detect electoral offenses, campaigns to raise awareness around the dangers of spreading disinformation and engagement with diverse stakeholders to protect the electoral integrity. The Unit has also been in charge of launching the country’s first Digital Ethics Pact, encouraging the population to make responsible use of social media during the electoral campaign. International IDEA support will continue until the elections in May 2019 and beyond, aiming to position the Unit as the leader in the fight against disinformation in Panama.

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Maria Ressa Faces Jail Time, Named ‘Guardian’ of Democratic Norms

The CEO of Rappler, a Philippine “Social News Network,” and D4D Advisory Board Member Maria Ressa has been charged by the Philippine government with tax evasion and failure to file tax returns; she could face up to ten years in prison. At the same time, she has been named one of Time Magazine’s 2018 Persons of the Year, part of what they call “the Guardians,” a group of journalists fighting for democratic values around the world. Ressa has been outspoken in her criticism of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent “war on drugs,” and other policies, while through research and analysis Rappler’s team have illuminated the influence campaigns and computational propaganda tactics his government and followers have pursued online.

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IFES Pilots Holistic Exposure and Adaptation Testing in Ukraine

D4D coalition member IFES is currently piloting its Holistic Exposure and Adaptation Testing (HEAT) process in Ukraine. The HEAT process is a method for identifying and testing the potential exploitation of vulnerabilities in the use of election data management technology. HEAT tests the technology itself, as well as the legal and operational frameworks in which the technology is being deployed. As part of the pilot, IFES conducted a cybersecurity assessment in summer 2018 and a cybersecurity tabletop simulation with the Ukrainian Central Election Commission in November 2018.