Regulators and legislators in democracies around the world are increasingly introducing new policies and proposed laws to address what are seen as digital threats to democracy. But just as it is difficult to define and evaluate those threats, it’s also important to consider what democratic values our institutions believe it is necessary to protect, and how regulators and lawmakers conceptualize those values and translate them in to policy.
In August, researchers Bridget Barrett and Daniel Kreiss from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media joined with Katharine (Kate) Dommett of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Politics and International Relations to publish research in the journal Policy & Internet that took a hard look at how democratic values express themselves in technology policy documents in the UK and the US in a paper titled, The capricious relationship between technology and democracy: Analyzing public policy discussions in the UK and US.
I spoke to Kate and Daniel about the research, including their findings on the lack of clarity about what democratic ideals we are trying to protect, and why the policy making discourse on tech and democracy is “often out of step with the growing literature which suggests that political conflicts between social groups, right-wing extremism, and anti-democratic actions increasingly taken by elites and parties are at the root of growing democratic crises.”
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.