Social media and democratic elections: a dangerous cocktail? Towards the prevention of undue influence on voters’ political opinions in the EU

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Bisoffi, Anna
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The emergence of social media revolutionized the public sphere and the informational landscape, and despite their pervasive presence and connection to fundamental human rights, there are concerns about whether these platforms have been adequately regulated to reach conformity with democratic values. This work will investigate if and how social media may negatively impact the public political discourse, offering the premise to develop recommendations for European policies to avoid undue interference in the formation of voters’ political opinions in relation to elections and voting processes. After an introductory section, to contextualize the debate by providing an overview of how and why social media may negatively impact democracy, we will examine the regulation of political discourse in traditional media compared to online platforms. Then, we will bring our attention to the EU framework. In the absence of comprehensive legislation on political speech on social media, the discipline will be reconstructed through the analysis of different sectorial initiatives, including the recently approved Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act. Subsequently, we will reconstruct the problems that need to be tackled to prevent interference with the electoral cycle, namely polarization, hate speech, targeted political advertising, foreign interference, and disinformation. The final part of this work will trace the areas of solutions in which the European Union could take action, including education and awareness raising campaigns, institutional strengthening policies, technological fixes, anti-trust law, and other regulatory measures, in order to reach conclusive recommendations.
Second semester University: University of Coimbra
social media, democracy, elections, European Union, disinformation, hate speech, political culture, political participation, technological innovations, public opinion