Bridg­ing the New Great Di­vide: Reach­ing the ‘Per­suad­ables’

Policy - - Contents - John Dela­court

While so­cial me­dia have had in­cal­cu­la­ble pos­i­tive ef­fects on democ­racy and hu­man rights, the cor­rup­tion of so­cial me­dia con­tent and ex­ploita­tion of per­sonal and ag­gre­gate data has ad­versely im­pacted democ­racy on two lev­els: the prop­a­ga­tion of mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tional con­tent meant to in­flu­ence be­hav­iour and the doubt cast on democ­racy as a sys­tem as a re­sult of that pro­pa­ganda. The 2019 Cana­dian fed­eral elec­tion will be a test of one coun­try’s re­sponse to the prob­lem.

The story is fa­mil­iar now. The role Face­book (and, to some de­gree, Twit­ter) played in the United States pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of 2016 has been plumbed by a num­ber of in­ves­ti­ga­tions. This in­cludes an on­go­ing study by the House ethics com­mit­tee in Ot­tawa on how users’ in­for­ma­tion is “har­vested” by en­ti­ties seek­ing to in­flu­ence the next Cana­dian fed­eral cam­paign. In the U.S., it is clear that for­eign ac­tors had ac­cess to user in­for­ma­tion that al­lowed them to mi­cro-

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Cana­di­ans will go to the polls in a gen­eral elec­tion on Oc­to­ber 21, 2019. The process will be a test of Canada’s re­sponse to the so­cial me­dia cor­rup­tion and ma­nip­u­la­tive pro­pa­ganda that have tainted elec­tion out­comes else­where.

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