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P21b


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The digital unsettling of civic space II 
Convenors:
Tony Roberts (Sussex University)
Tanja Bosch (University of Cape Town)
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Stream:
Business, finance and digital technologies
Format:
Papers Synchronous
Sessions:
Wednesday 30 June, 10:00-11:45 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

From hashtag campaigns to botnet disinformation, we are experiencing dramatic digital disruption of traditional deliberation and dialogue process. This panel examines who is using which technologies to both open and close civic space, with what impact for digital rights and sustainable development.

Long Abstract

The space for government, civil society and the private sector to co-determine social policy is considered essential to sustainable development (SDG 16 and SDG 17). However most countries are experiencing "closing civic space" (CIVICUS 2019) a reality that denies citizens, especially those from marginalised groups, the space to participate fully in debates and decisions that govern their lives. Citizens have responded creatively to this closing of civic space by opening new civic space online, using mobile phones and social media platforms to voice their concerns and exercise rights guaranteed to them in constitutions, laws and treaties but being denied to them in practice.

Since the Arab Spring and Cambridge Analytica episodes governments have rushed to deploy an ever-widening range of tools and tactics to close this opening of civic space online. Government are using blogging regulation, social media taxes, bandwidth throttling, internet shutdowns, AI-surveillance, and the use of troll farms, cyborg armies and automated bot-nets to deploy disinformation, disrupt deliberation, drown-out dialogue and debate, and to dominate discourse.

Whether the subject is pandemic-prevention measures, climate-denial, ant-vaccination or gender/race hate, powerful interests are profiling citizens and covertly micro-targeting them with influence messages to determine referenda and elections, as well as shape an ever-broadening range of policy debates.

These are critical issues for development studies.

This panel invites papers examining how these dynamics are impacting sustainable development in countries currently under-represented in the existing literature.

Accepted papers: