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In an ideal world, a democracy elects its leaders by having its citizens participate in a careful, critical, and thoughtful comparison and selection of competing parties, platforms, policies, and personalities. This process of analysis and selection depends fundamentally upon access to objective information, a fair and unbiased press and media, political candidates and leaders speaking truthfully, and social norms privileging evidence, expertise, and rational decision-making. However, recent major elections have been plagued by the presence – and sometimes, blatant celebration — of lies, untruths, misinformation, and accusations of election interference and fraud, perpetrated by domestic and foreign parties alike. As a result, the basic foundations of democracy have been shaken to their core, as misinformation, emotionality, and fearmongering are used as tools to manipulate electoral processes. As the world now awaits the result of the looming 2020 US election in an atmosphere of a ‘post-truth politics’ amplified across social media platforms, this Global Insights panel questions how we have arrived at this strange and troubling point in democratic decision making, and how we might escape from it. If it is not an accurately informed electorate, and if the media, politicians, and experts cannot be ‘trusted’, then who or what is ultimately deciding the outcome of leadership contests in modern democratic states?
Scott Koga-Browes, Graduate School of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University. After a career in television news production in Japan and the UK, Scott Koga-Browes now researches Japan’s journalism and mass media industries, he has a particular interest in visual communication in news images.
Aaron Shull, Managing Director and General Counsel, Centre for International Governance Innovation. A practising lawyer, Aaron Shull is CIGI’s managing director and general counsel. In addition to advising on a range of domestic legal and corporate matters, he has substantive expertise in international law, global security and internet governance.
Jorhena Thomas, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University. Jorhena Thomas has extensive experience in intelligence analysis, intelligence-led investigations, and homeland security. At American University, she runs a practicum course on disinformation that focuses on helping U.S. Government entities address the evolving use of information warfare by nation states. She has recently co-authored a tabletop exercise package developed to help state and local election officials, technology companies, media outlets, the Intelligence Community prepare for election-related disinformation that may impact their work in the coming months.
Moderated by Ann Fitz-Gerald, Director, Balsillie School of International Affairs