Call for Paper- Social Media in Democratic Societies

The Corona epidemic leaves us in our homes, while our connections to the outside world are mediated entirely through digital platforms. This current dependence on digital platforms is quantitatively extreme but not fundamentally different from our day to day growing dependence on these platforms. These platforms makes it possible for individuals to communicate, express their views and disseminate information on a large scale. At the same time, this infrastructure allows and even encourages the distribution of extreme and controversial content. Such an environment is also characterized by personalized targeting, in which algorithms predict what information a user would like to see based on information about the user. As a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.

In both routine and emergency, a series of common assumptions or socio-political imaginations guide us as to the desired operation of various civil institutions such as the police, the media or the government. This shared notion of the purpose of the various institutions allows us to audit the activities of these institutions and to shape legislation, rulings and policies in relation to them. In contrast, while social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been developed by for-profit commercial companies, they have created mass media infrastructure with wide-ranging public characteristics and implications that have not yet been framed and comprehensively conceptualized. Countries such as China, Singapore and Egypt have developed various legal tools in recent years to deal with disinformation. These tools are based on the assumption that governments can and should determine the truth, as well as the assumption that governments can and should control the flow of information on social media. In contrast, democratic societies, which seek to avoid centralized control over public discourses, find themselves a beat helpless in the face of this phenomenon. This difficulty stems, in part, from a lack of language and vision to describe the role of social media in a democratic society.

The Federman Cyber Security Research Center in collaboration with the Institute for National Security Studies has been investigating the phenomenon of disinformation and fake news in the past year.

We believe that formulating a perception of the role and purpose of social media in democratic societies, is a key analytical tool in analyzing the problem as well as designing ways of dealing with it. Any kind of regulation and policy should, in part, be derived from this role and purpose. We therefore invite researchers and professionals from all disciplines to submit short texts (up to 2000 words) to discuss the purpose and role of social media in a democratic society. We invite both descriptive articles exploring the existing situation, normative articles seeking to outline a vision for social media, alongside works from different genres. The featured articles will be published on the Federman Center for Cyber Research, and their authors will be invited to attend an online event dedicated to the purpose of social media in a democratic society, which will be held on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 1 p.m.

The deadline for submission is 03/05/2020

For articles submission please contact Dr. Tomer Shadmy