Democratic resilience in times of online-propaganda, fake news, fear- and hate speech (DemoRESILdigital)

Junior research group

Fake news, Dis- and misinformation, online-propaganda, fear- and hate speech, democratic resilience, digital public sphere, methods of communication studies
Timespan January 2018 till December 2022
Leadership
Dr. Lena Frischlich
Responsible professorship Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt | Prof. Dr. Heike Trautmann
Processing Felix Brinkschulte, M.A. | Lena Adam
Institutions Department of Communication (University of Münster) | Department for Information Systems (University of Münster)
Funding Ministry of Culture and Science North-Rhine Westphalia
Keywords Fake news, Dis- and misinformation, online-propaganda, fear- and hate speech, democratic resilience, digital public sphere, methods of communication studies


Abstract

The digital society offers new possibilities for democratic participation as well as for disseminating manipulative content. Strategic agents are abusing the easy access to digitally generated publics to spread online propaganda, fake news, fear and hate speech. Such manipulative online content has been assumed to play a crucial role in radicalizing individuals, fostering social polarization, and weakening democracy per se. Even if the empirical evidence partly contradicts such dramatic expectations, the consequences of manipulative online communication should not be underestimated. In consequence, in order to support media recipients in dealing with manipulation attempts via online-media, it is necessary to promote users digital democratic resilience, their individual resistance against manipulative attempts and their ability to make autonomous decisions in virtual communication spheres. However, in order to implement effective tools empowering users and promoting digital democratic resilience, an in-depth understanding of the actors, target groups and impacts of the aforementioned phenomena is needed.

Approach

DemoRESILdigital addresses this need. The research team will analyze the actors, dissemination and impact of online propaganda, fake news, fear- and hate speech on different target groups by means of an innovative integration of methods from social sciences, computer science, data science and experimental research on media effects. On this basis, this interdisciplinary junior research group formed by communication scientists and computer scientists will identify and implement suitable intervention and prevention measures to promote democratic resilience.