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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New Report Explores Disinformation and Elections

D4D Coalition member the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has released a new report on “Social Media, Disinformation and Electoral Integrity,” which describes various aspects of disinformation in the online environment and their implications on elections worldwide. This follows IFES’ report from earlier in the year on “Disinformation Campaigns and Hate Speech,” which explores the relationship between the two issues and implications for democracy and governance programming.

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Chinese Censorship Rises Surrounding Hong Kong Protests as Facebook and Twitter Ban State Linked Accounts Spreading Disinformation

Since protests began in Hong Kong this summer, China has used state media to manipulate perceptions of the situation domestically, in Hong Kong, and internationally. The country’s media and online censors have been manipulating the context of images and videos to undermine protesters, defend the Hong Kong police, and promote nationalism in a campaign which has included blatant disinformation as well as propaganda that often promotes anti-Western sentiments. Social media content that sympathized with the protesters or contextualized the protests was immediately taken down on domestic networks such as Weibo and WeChat. Both Twitter and Facebook announced their discovery and removal of extensive networks of Chinese-based accounts spreading disinformation, and Twitter banned all state-sponsored media from advertising on its networks.

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Report on European Responses to Disinformation and Hybrid Threats

The German Marshall Fund released a new report that studies unilateral and multilateral efforts in Europe to counter Russian disinformation and hybrid threats. The paper uses six case studies to assess the extent to which new organizations are successful and avoid the “Band-Aid Effect.” Reliable funding is deemed essential, due to the disparity between spending levels of Russian interference operations and efforts to counter them. The report also highlights the importance of outreach to the press and public in order to raise awareness and increase resilience against the threat. Lastly, collaboration and the sharing of experiences between existing institutions is emphasized as a necessary aspect of creating long-term solutions.

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YouTube’s Recommendation Engine Pushing Extremist Content in Brazil

YouTube generates video recommendations based on user history and behavior through an algorithmic system designed to maximize watchtime, and the system suggests more provocative videos to keep users entertained. An investigation by the New York Times, backed by studies by U.S. and Brazilian universities, found that the recommendation engine disproportionately diverts users to far-right and conspiracy channels. Members of Brazil’s supporters groups that back the current ultra-conservative administration credit the platform for their success and ability to reach a wider audience. The algorithm also has pushed users towards videos promoting conspiracy theories and anti-vaccination sites, among other politicized and often inflammatory content.

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“Why Not” Releases In-Depth Analysis of Disinformation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Citizens’ Association “Why Not” utilized fact-checking platform Raskrinkavanje.ba to identify political disinformation targeting citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina between November 2017 and November 2018. Their in-depth analysis, which examines content published by over 450 digital media outlets, is the first of its kind to take place in the country. The report analyzes the various types, sources, targets, beneficiaries, and redistributors of the disinformation. More than 60% of the articles containing information labeled as intentionally “false” or “misleading” dealt with political issues. The research found most sources of disinformation to be domestic, but identified a group of foreign outlets disproportionately using online tactics to push an agenda focused on undermining pro-democratic actors.