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For the period surrounding the 2018 Dutch municipal elections, a team of researchers from the Delft University of Technology investigated the effect of the digital environment on parliamentary democracy. An interdisciplinary group of researchers combined expertise on digital ethics, political theory, big data analytics, the economics of privacy and security, epistemology, media studies and computer science. This report presents the main findings, which are grouped around two main themes: political micro-targeting and ICT media. Societal themes that came to prominence over the research period, such as the debate over ‘fake news’ and the leaks of personal information that were used for political purposes by Facebook, as well as the implementation of new EU privacy regulation helped to put the research in a larger political context. The main findings provide a qualified picture. The influence of the digital revolution on democratic politics is already revolutionary, and the weaknesses of online platforms provide ample opportunities for derailing liberal democracy. Digital platforms are too closed-off, not mindful enough of individual digital rights, and biased in their (re)presentation of political pluralism. But the Netherlands has proven to be one of the few democracies that is relatively resilient, with an open multi-party system receptive to the political fragmentation that ICT developments encourage, and relatively high trust between citizens, in shared media organizations, and between political parties. In order not to be complacent in the face of fundamental challenges, the report provides several urgent recommendations. Next to several ‘reactive’ recommendations, which seek to remedy the weaknesses and dangers the digital environment poses to democracy, it also outlines an example of how the digital environment might be proactively redesigned in order to positively enhance the quality of the Dutch parliamentary system.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyState Commission on the Parliamentary System
Number of pages65
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2018

ID: 47908607