Junior Research Group 1: Demokratische Resilienz in Zeiten von Online-Propaganda, Fake news, Fear- und Hate speech (DemoRESILdigital)

The digital society offers new possibilities for democratic participation as well as for disseminating manipulative content. Strategic agents are abusing the easy access to digitally generated publics to spread online propaganda, fake news, fear and hate speech. Such manipulative online content has been assumed to play a crucial role in radicalizing individuals, fostering social polarization, and weakening democracy per se. Even if the empirical evidence partly contradicts such dramatic expectations, the consequences of manipulative online communication should not be underestimated. In consequence, in order to support media recipients in dealing with manipulation attempts via online-media, it is necessary to promote users digital democratic resilience, their individual resistance against manipulative attempts and their ability to make autonomous decisions in virtual communication spheres. However, in order to implement effective tools empowering users and promoting digital democratic resilience, an in-depth understanding of the actors, target groups and impacts of the aforementioned phenomena is needed.

DemoRESILdigital addresses this need. The research team will analyze the actors, dissemination and impact of online propaganda, fake news, fear- and hate speech on different target groups by means of an innovative integration of methods from social sciences, computer science, data science and experimental research on media effects. On this basis, this interdisciplinary junior research group formed by communication scientists and computer scientists will identify and implement suitable intervention and prevention measures to promote democratic resilience.