Political actors are deploying ever-more fine-grained forms of data and social media-based messaging to persuade voters, mobilise supporters, disrupt opponents and shape public discourse. Two sets of practices have received particular attention; micro-targeting (serving targeted messages based on detailed personal profiling) and computational propaganda focused on manipulating discourse (fake news, bots, etc.). We still struggle how to evaluate and respond to these new political technologies. They raise privacy concerns, threaten to exacerbate polarisation and crises of trust, and have been held responsible for political violence. Regulatory responses pose their own dilemmas, both with respect to protecting privacy and free speech. Moreover, these technologies’ impacts may not be exclusively negative, but also help reinvigorate democratic participation. The panel will debate the nature, effects, privacy risks and possible regulation from the perspectives of law, communication studies and psychology, social science and regulatory practice.
• How do micro-targeting and computational propaganda relate to each other?
• What effects do they have on citizens, publics and the democratic process?
• What risks to privacy and data protection do these practices pose?
• What rules and regulatory responses do we need?