German-American Initiative on Influencers, Disinformation, and Democracy in the Digital Age

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Influencer, Disinformation and Democracy

 

Mission

The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) has launched a new initiative to engage influencers in the effort to create public spaces that tackle disinformation and other online vulnerabilities in democracies. Exploring both the approach of influencers to disinformation and their mobilization potential on- and offline, it strives to align transatlantic interests and promote institutional cooperation for increased efficiency in platform governance.

The project aims to include influencers in discussions on platform regulation that reflect their role in impacting democratic security and integrity. Given the centrality of social media as a source of news, community action, and political mobilization and the many ways influencers interact online, it is essential to incorporate them into the process of finding means of platform governance that address current gray zones.

Approach for 2022/23

This three-year project is organized into three one-year classes that will each consist of 16 fellows: eight influencers from Germany and eight from the United States. Each class will participate in two five-day study visits – one to Berlin, the other to Washington, DC – that will focus on specific pre-selected topics.

Each study visit will be comprised of off-the-record workshops, meetings, and discussions that will examine current political issues or relevant policy areas that could emerge as focal points for state-backed or homegrown mis-/disinformation, especially during elections.

For the class of 2022/23, the Washington Study Visit takes place the week of November 27, 2022. The Berlin Study Visit takes place the week of April 24, 2023. The discussions for this class include case studies that draw on two vulnerable policy issue areas: COVID-19 and democracy.

Objectives

This initiative aims to incorporate the under-addressed constituency of influencers in the policy discourse around mis-/disinformation as well as illegal and harmful content. Ultimately, achieving these objectives will support the policy basis for greater European, transatlantic, and global resilience in the fight against mis-/disinformation and for democratic, fact-based online discourse.

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