Bologna leads the European Respond consortium to ferret out corruption in digital democracies | EUROtoday

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The University of Bologna will lead a European group of 16 universities, think-tanks and associations from 12 international locations, which is able to begin working from right now on “Respond”, a neighborhood mission financed with 5.5 million euros by Horizon Europe ( the EU program devoted to analysis and innovation) which over the following 5 years will attempt to perceive and measure how political corruption works in digital societies, i.e. how digital applied sciences and media are influencing – and threatening – political decision-making processes and democratic mechanisms.

How democracy works in digital societies

The identify much like the earlier Horizon mission (closed final November) devoted to the psychological results of the Covid-19 pandemic should not be deceptive: Respond on this case stands for “Rescuing democracy from political corruption in digital societies”, i.e. “Saving democracy from political corruption in digital societies”. The objective is to collect data from all media, both traditional and online, and from social media, relating to behaviors that can lead to political corruption, but which are not necessarily illegal. These are five “gray” areas of investigation: lobbies, political financing, revolving doors, personal connections, pressure on the media. Then we will analyze whether and how these influence practices impact the 27 EU countries and 11 neighboring nations (including Ukraine, Serbia and Great Britain), for example by translating into ad personam rules.

From illicit mechanisms to civil education

«We don't just want to do research for its own sake, with the risk that the evidence will increase distrust in democracy, but to develop reaction and education tools. It will be above all on this third phase of the project that we will focus as the University of Bologna, in addition to the coordination work of the entire consortium”, explains Alice Mattoni, professor of the division of Political and Social Sciences of the Alma Mater and scientific coordinator of the mission, in the course of the kick-off occasion of the mission, yesterday beneath the Two Towers, along with all of the companions (together with the University of Gothenburg, Sciences Po Paris, King's College London, the University of Amsterdam, that of Duisburg- Essen, the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, the NGOs Libera and S-Com). «The platform into which we’ll add the info will likely be open, accessible to all – he specifies – and in mild of the outcomes we’ll launch coaching programs for civil society actors and journalists, to stimulate reactive behaviour. The final intention is to safeguard our democracies, which as such are all the time altering and to maintain them alive we have to reactivate the antibodies that make them work.”

The forerunner project from Bologna: Bit-Act

Respond represents the ideal continuation of a previous study that the University of Bologna is completing alone, again under the guidance of Professor Mattoni: Bit-Act (2019-2024), funded by the European Research Council, within Horizon 2020 , which focused on nine countries around the world to analyze how organizations develop and use digital technologies and media to combat corruption. «We have just published the first results of Bit-Act (available for free online), which shows how new digital and social technologies allow citizens and organizations to coordinate actively and easily to tackle corruption – Mattoni anticipates – but sustainability over time of these initiatives is very low. Many initiatives have been created all over the world, they have strong visibility at the beginning but the potential wanes quickly, they don't last. Like the platform in India that allows citizens to report the payment of a bribe or the algorithm that in Brazil identifies unclear expenses made by parliamentarians.”

Lots of corruption, little analysis

With Respond, the Alma Mater has put collectively for the primary time a trans-European consortium to arrange a way more complicated work than Bit-Act, which is able to final till 2029, divided into 4 strands: producing new knowledge and data on political corruption with the creation of threat indicators; discover the function of digital, social and AI applied sciences in perpetuating the political corruption related to these types of affect; consider the function of social media by means of surveys and evaluation of particular person instances; examine, co-develop and check instruments and strategies to deal with political corruption and improve belief in democratic governance, additionally offering helpful knowledge for brand spanking new legal guidelines. «Despite the proliferation of scandals throughout Europe, analysis on types of political corruption in modern, extremely digitalized societies is surprisingly restricted: there are nonetheless few research analyzing how reputable types of political affect can steadily remodel into instances of undue affect – Mattoni explains -. This lack of research is an impediment that stops balanced assessments within the growth and implementation of insurance policies and in the end undermines belief in democratic governments.”