Executive MPA   Executive training  

Digital governance

9-11 October 2023 | Executive seminar

Digital media have transformed the way we communicate, interact and consume many kinds of information, including political information. Social media technology is still young, but it has already played a part in numerous turbulent protests, a highly polarised U.S. election and an ongoing war of disinformation. Most importantly, digital media have often been at the forefront of the conflict between “good” democratic forces who use social media to make their voices heard and “bad” autocratic and repressive forces who aim to censor this channel to silence these liberal elements. One of the biggest challenges emerging from these dynamics is how to govern spaces that have become the forefront for political interaction and public discourse.

This first part of the course combines input from the instructor with in-class case study work to examine four controversial developments in digital spaces: (a) the origins, proliferation and effects of mis/disinformation and conspiracy theories, (b) the rising levels of toxicity and its societal and political implications, (c) the emergence of highly sophisticated campaigns - by political parties but also foreign or domestic actors with non-democratic aims and (d) the importation from authoritarian regimes into Western democracies of methods of strategic reach and digital governance. It does so, using comprehensive theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence from scientific studies using experimental and data science methods.

The second part of the course, that partially overlaps with the first part, focuses on the regulation of digital spaces, content moderation and the future of free speech. Here, most of the emphasis will be placed on how different actors from civil society, governments, tech firms, citizens themselves and even advertisers are involved in the governance and regulation of platforms. This part involves input form the instructor along with class-work focused on developing policy proposals and plausible future scenarios.

Main topics and learning objectives

  • The course offers you the opportunity to develop an informed opinion about trends in digital environments that have led to significant challenges in the governance of online spaces
  • You will also develop a better understanding of the major policy confrontations related to how especially social media platforms can be regulated and how this battle is shaped by the dynamic involvement of civil society, tech companies, advertisers, governments and citizens. Special emphasis is placed on the future of freedom of speech on social media.
  • Finally, you will develop and put forward ideas about alternative visions of how digital transformation can be supported to develop positive outcomes for society.

Target group

  • Specialists in (political) communication from political parties and civil society organisations
  • Government specialists in (digital) policy design
  • Actors involved in human rights organisations

This seminar is offered in the open enrolment programme and as part of the Executive MPA programme and can be taken as part of the ETGN certificate programme.