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Infrastructuring Democracy: The Regulatory Politics of Digital Code, Content and Circulation

The Infrastructuring Democracy project explores how the digital infrastructuring of democracy unfolds through regulatory and political processes.

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The time when the internet epitomised progressive, innovative, bottom-up politics has passed. The business-models of platforms, intelligence services, the use of the internet for propaganda purposes, the proliferation of online political bubbles and the proliferation of trolls and bots have tarnished the romantic image of digital democracy. Questions about the potential impact of the internet are now routinely raised in relation to political events and elections in most places. The internet is an infrastructure selecting, directing, conducting, generating and delimiting the terrain of democratic contestation. Even if people are no digital dupes, concerns about how the internet relates to democracy are amply warranted.

The Infrastructuring Democracy project asks how digital infrastructures of democracy might be regulated – and might also shape their own regulation. While attention is being paid to these questions in the Global North – for example, on fake news and misinformation around elections – much less attention is focused on regulation in the Global South. The project focuses on these issues in Brazil as a means of exploring both the transnational dimensions of regulation and its specific reverberations in democracies of the Global South.

Dr Deval Desai, Lecturer in International Economic Law, is a co-investigator on the Infrastructuring Democracy project, which is conducted by researchers and professors at the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies, Geneva (IHEID), the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and University of Edinburgh.

The project will focus on the politics of regulating three aspects of the digital infrastructure: the accountability of algorithms for code, data protection for content, and encryption for circulation. These controversies will be studied at an overarching level as well as in relation to their unfolding in the Brazilian context. 

This project is funded through the Brazilian-Swiss Joint Research Programme (BSJRP) from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). 

Learn more about the project and its activities