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Our research aims to understand and address the challenges and opportunities that digital technologies are creating for democracies.

These technologies can facilitate elections and democratic decision-making and empower citizens and activists, but also disrupt democracy with fake news, micro-targeted hate speech, or intensified surveillance. Digitization is reshaping the boundaries between public and private and have an impact on democracy. Types of rules such as computer code and user agreements are constituting new forms of governance that challenges traditional notions of democracy.

The governance of new cyberspaces raises concerns for democracy relating to privacy, competition policy, and free speech. This is evident with the controversies and responses provoked by the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach. Digital technologies are associated with greater openness and transparency, but also new black boxes, barriers and hidden power relations. Their contributions to precarity and inequality are implicated in the worldwide backlash against democracy. Challenges associated with digital technologies and democracy extend across borders, as with the global operations of technology companies such as Facebook and the rise of “sharp power” by authoritarian governments to disrupt or manipulate democracy. With this cross-border dimension, digitization intersect with the ongoing gap between formal democratic procedures that have been organized within the boundaries of nation-states, and the increasingly global character of the policy problems they are expected to address.

The multidimensional and multijurisdictional character of the challenges calls for collaborative efforts that bring together researchers from different disciplines and views. It also demands co-operation between those involved in making changes in public and private governance and technologies that can address the challenges. This project facilitates research at the intersection of existing funded research programs, as with the principle investigators’ Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada funded research, as well as encouraging new collaborations, directions, knowledge, and solutions through workshops and publications.