International Conference: The Future of Political Discourse in the Age of Platforms


After the initial wave of euphoria about global digital interconnectedness, it took a few years before the social challenges posed by new platforms and communication technologies were recognized. In particular, scandals such as Cambridge Analytica and targeted disinformation campaigns in connection with the Brexit referendum or ethnic violence in Myanmar have shown that digital technology can be used globally to consciously manipulate voters, distort political discourse and polarize societies.

What is the role of big tech for political discourse and democracy? This question is particularly relevant in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing disinfodemic as well as the upcoming presidential elections in the USA. How can we safeguard freedom of speech and opinion while combating targeted hatred and disinformation online?

It has become much more difficult and important to filter and critically examine the daily flood of information. At the same time, the rapid integration of social media platforms into all areas of users' lives has opened up completely new opportunities for targeted, personalized, automated and often almost imperceptible influencing and nudging. But it has also opened up new and unprecedented opportunities for participation. Media (creators) see themselves increasingly confronted with criticism and hostility. This loss of trust in the traditional gatekeepers of the media industry and in democratic institutions can lead to a serious problem of legitimacy in liberal democracies.

For democracies whose cohesion is based on the participation and approval of their citizens, this digital-media revolution presents a completely new challenge. How they deal with it will have an impact on how they survive in the increasingly intense global systemic competition.

To discuss these important questions, Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation for Freedom is organising an international conference on “The Future of Political Discourse in the Age of Platforms” on 21 September 2020 in Cologne, Germany. More information on the conference will be published as soon as it is available..