17:15 - 18:15
"Hacking Democracy": Power and Propaganda in the Digital Age

Short thesis

The internet’s ability to create and share information can be exploited to churn out a sea of misinformation or build large bodies of intelligence through the extraction of private data. As reports have long stated and reporting confirms: both state and corporate actors are leveraging social media and news outlets for their own political advantage and commercial profit – areas where legal boundaries and awareness are poorly defined – or transgressing against their institutional functions and causing huge collateral damage in the process.

Political propaganda and cyberattacks have global reach, low costs and high deniability – but be aware: tracing and attributing sources is hard if you are a legit researcher. Discussion moderated by Geraldine de Bastion


With this session, we aim to facilitate an informed and well-tempered debate that moves towards a better understanding of cyberwarfare, as well as other interferences within political processes – in doing this, we will highlight the multitude of new and troubling forms of “Hacking Democracy” that are by far not limited to the digital realm.

Garry Kasparov (13th World Chess Champion, Oxford Martin Fellow, fierce tweep, Chairman for the Human Rights Foundation), and Avast Security Ambassador, and Claudio Guarnieri (Security Researcher with Citizen Lab, fierce tweep, Senior Technologist with Amnesty Technology and Security without Borders) will discuss the digital impact on human rights and fundamental values, and what can be done to keep up with these threats and the web of trade-offs that can endanger privacy, individual freedoms and overall security (though security is a complicated concept in itself).

This session will not be limited to debating an individual state’s role: as a Soviet citizen and a pro-democracy leader in Russia, Garry Kasparov has seen, up close, how governments use and misuse the control of information. Claudio Guarnieri extensively researched and reported human rights violations in the digital realm in many countries, including Iran and Azerbaijan, and even the U.S.

The asymmetrical acceleration of information creation and the human ability to process and cope with it are one aspect of the debate.
From spam to propaganda to phishing attacks, the huge amount of data we produce and share quicker than ever before is being used against us. Other aspects the debate will tackle are:
•       How can we sort through fake news and political propaganda? Where is the balance of corporate management, government regulation and individual empowerment?
•       Is technology agnostic? Our increasingly powerful tools can be used to either help or harm the causes of democracy and individual freedom.
•       Does maintaining privacy and security without repression or anarchy require a commitment to private, public and corporate engagement? And what does dedication to transparency mean in this context?