Monday, October 4, 2021 • 11:00

Keynote on Emergence

Stephan Lewandowsky

From agenda-setting to furtive manipulation: The role of (social) media in political polarization

Stephan Lewandowsky • University of Bristol

Democracy is in retreat or under pressure worldwide. Even in countries with strong democracies, polarization is increasing, and the public sphere is awash in misinformation and conspiracy theories. Many commentators have blamed social media and the lack of platform governance for these unfortunate trends. I review the evidence for these claims and show how the traditional view that mainstream media are instrumental in setting the political agenda has become superseded by politicians’ power to set their own agenda through social media. I review the growing evidence that all forms of media are a causal factor in shaping a variety of political behaviors, from ethnic hate crimes to compliance with social-distancing measures. I examine the implications of this analysis through the tripartite lens of political advertising, free speech, and government regulations.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 • 09:00

Keynote on Dissemination

Fabiana Zollo

Investigating Social Dynamics in the Digital Era: A Data-driven Approach

Fabiana Zollo • Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenge of conveying and communicating complexity and uncertainty to the public, also given the increasing central role of the Internet and social media. Designed to maximise users' presence on the platform and to deliver targeted advertising, social media transformed the information landscape and have rapidly become the main information sources for many of their users. Information spreads faster and farther online, in a flow-through system where users have immediate access to unlimited content. This may facilitate the proliferation of mis- and dis-information, generating chaos, and limiting access to correct information. In this talk, I will provide an overview of how online social dynamics and behavioural patterns can be investigated in a quantitative and interdisciplinary way. Moreover, I will discuss how data-driven insights can be used to design tailored policy recommendations.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 • 16:00

Keynote on Mitigation

Ralph Hertwig

Confronting Digital Challenges with Cognitive Tools

Ralph Hertwig • Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The Internet has evolved into a ubiquitous and indispensable digital environment in which people communicate, seek information, and make decisions. Despite offering various benefits, online environments are also replete with smart, highly adaptive choice architectures designed primarily to maximize commercial interests, capture and sustain users’ attention, monetize user data, and predict and influence future behavior. This online landscape holds multiple negative consequences for society, such as a decline in human autonomy, rising incivility in online conversation, the facilitation of political extremism, and the spread of disinformation. Benevolent choice architects working with regulators may curb the worst excesses of manipulative choice architectures, yet the strategic advantages, resources, and data remain with commercial players. One way to address some of this imbalance is with interventions that empower Internet users to gain some control over their digital environments, in part by boosting their information literacy and their cognitive resistance to manipulation. Another type of interventions are nudges that focus on the properties of the choice architecture and simple reminders. We focus on these two types of behavioral and cognitive interventions, nudges, and boosts, and discuss their conceptual assumptions and available behavioral evidence.