Digital Threats to Democracy

From August 16-19 2019, McConnell, Luminate and the Public Policy Forum convened a group of experts and stakeholders from the field of civic digital literacy and mis/disinformation prevention to discuss “digital threats to our democracy”. Together, we explored ways to deepen digitally enabled civic engagement and strengthen our collective capacity to respond to these digital threats.


Why this gathering?

Over the last decade, the proliferation of digital media has transformed our public sphere and reshaped the nature of our public debate. The rise of a new online political culture and the consolidation of the dominant digital platforms have shifted how we engage in democratic processes. While these platforms provide increased space for more diverse views and greater freedom of expression, there is a sense of powerlessness amongst people and governments in the face of tech giants. In Canada and across the world, mis and disinformation are contributing to polarizing societies, weakening our information systems and delegitimizing sectors and institutions. As a result, there is a perception by the public that trust in news stories, information and democratic institutions has declined. This is problematic, as healthy information systems are as vital to community wellbeing as a healthy water supply or access to healthcare.

Tackling these issues urgently requires systemic strategies and programs at the policy and grassroots level.


Lines of Inquiry for this report:

  • How can the public be better equipped to defend itself against digital threats accelerated by new media?
  • How can we advance systemic strategies for digital civic literacy at the policy and grassroots levels?
  • What are promising practices for creating and disseminating civic engagement programs so individuals have the necessary tools and skills to combat misinformation?
  • How has the rise of online political culture and the consolidation of the dominant digital platforms reconfigured our relationship with civic engagement and how can citizens and institutions be better equipped for these changes?
  • What are some opportunities and key considerations for funders to help strengthen civic capacity?

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