Digital democracy International

Introducing access://democracy: Tech Transparency and Accountability during European Elections

Elections in the digital age remain vulnerable to various forms of toxic political discourse, such as online disinformation and hate speech. The actors exploiting these vulnerabilities, as well as the tools and tactics they use to do so, quickly evolve over time and differ from country to country. That means fast-paced, continuous monitoring and analysis of online political activities are crucial for safeguarding online discourse in real-time.

Such evidence-based reporting is especially important during national elections in EU member states. For one, preserving democracy at EU-level means ensuring free and fair elections in its member states, the bloc’s co-legislators. And although the EU recently finalised the Digital Services Act (DSA), a new regulatory framework for how online platforms should address illegal and harmful online content, the unrolling of the DSA remains very unclear. Data access and platform transparency is key to ensure election integrity and stable democracies in a time of digital disruption.

To address these challenges, Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is proud to introduce access://democracy, a three-year project monitoring online discourse during key national elections in the EU.

In doing so, DRI will generate the evidence needed to evaluate whether social media platforms are adhering to new obligations codified in the DSA.

Throughout the course of this project funded by Stiftung Mercator, DRI will work together with likeminded partner organisations on the ground in member states across the EU to:

  • conduct pre-election risk assessments of country-specific vulnerabilities that open the door to election interference in the form of disinformation, hate speech, or manipulated information campaigns
  • monitor online political discourse on key social media platforms in a member state’s official language throughout the entirety of the election cycle
  • report on real-time trends in online political discourse with the potential to marginalise vulnerable groups and disrupt social cohesion
  • track platforms’ compliance with the DSA
  • advocate for more platform transparency, better data access, and additional actions to preserve election integrity in the digital age

access://democracy will kick off with monitoring and analysis of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Poland, a country at the centre of debates surrounding the state of democracy in the EU.

Our partner during the Polish election cycle is the Warsaw-based think-tank and policy research organisation Instytut Spraw Publicznych (Institute of Public Affairs, IPA). Established in 1995, IPA is a leader in the study of key Polish and European policy issues, including the health of democratic institutions and the rule of law. IPA’s previous work assessing Polish society’s vulnerability to disinformation and monitoring selected media outlets for disinformation and propaganda will lend valuable perspective to coming joint reports on trends in Poland’s online electoral ecosystem.

 → Be sure to subscribe to the ‘Digital Drop’, our newsletter on all things digital democracy, for updates on our real-time reporting about online political discourse during the Polish election cycle. Just tick ‘digital democracy’ under the topics list.

access://democracy is funded by Stiftung Mercator and independently implemented by Democracy Reporting International.

This work is supported by

Stiftung Mercator