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Mitigating Online Misleading Information and Polarization in Conflict-Sensitive Contexts: Experimental Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire

August 3, 2023

As misinformation and polarization increase, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) faces new challenges in its support for electoral integrity, party development, democratic governance, and citizen participation. Our Global Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (G-DMEL) team, in partnership with NDI's Côte d'Ivoire program, aimed to answer the following question: What kinds of democracy interventions - separately or in combination – can impact online misinformation uptake and dissemination among youth, and reduce affective polarizations across partisan divides? With funding from the NED and in collaboration with leading academic researchers from Evidence in Governance And Politics (EGAP), NDI experimentally tested the impacts of four types of intervention hypotheses: one based on capacity building (training on digital literacy) and three designed to mitigate socio-political motivations to consume and disseminate misinformation. The findings revealed that traditional digital literacy interventions alone did not change youth capacity to identify misinformation, nor their behavior in knowingly sharing misinformation. Surprisingly, social identity interventions did have impacts, but in unexpected directions. These critical insights are paving the way for NDI to rethink strategies to combat misinformation in highly polarized environments.

Defending Democracy in Exile: Understanding and Responding to Transnational Repression

June 1, 2022

Over the past year, governments around the world have engaged in increasingly brazen attempts to stifle dissent by attacking critics who live abroad. Belarusian authorities forced an international airliner to land so they could detain a journalist who was on board. Iranian agents conspired to kidnap a women's rights activist from her home in Brooklyn. Turkish intelligence officers abducted the nephew of a political figure from outside a police station in Nairobi. These audacious acts of transnational repression, in which governments reach across national borders to silence opposition among diaspora and exile communities, demonstrated a dangerous disregard for international law, democratic norms, and state sovereignty.Despite growing awareness of the problem, transnational repression remains a global threat to human rights and democratic values because few tools exist to protect its intended targets. People who are brave enough to stand up to autocrats can feel abandoned. As one human rights defender described it, "If I'm being honest with you, we're really alone in this." While autocrats in origin states work together to threaten them, exile and diaspora communities must contend with unprepared immigration and security agencies in host countries. They are named in abusive Interpol notices, experience reprisals for interacting with UN agencies, and must withstand sophisticated digital campaigns designed to surveil and harass them.The tactics of transnational repression are powerful because they have evolved to take advantage of the connection and openness brought by globalization. Perpetrator states have turned institutions and practices of host governments, international partnerships, and communication technologies against the vulnerable people they shelter.This report, the second in a series by Freedom House on transnational repression, examines the ways in which nondemocratic governments are pursuing their critics abroad, what governments that host exiles and diasporas can do to protect individuals targeted by foreign states, and where gaps in existing safeguards remain.

Influencing the Internet: Democratizing the Politics that Shape Internet Governance

May 24, 2022

Internet governance refers to the processes to make decisions about how the internet is managed locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. This sociotechnical infrastructure (which includes the people, practices, standards and institutions that govern different components of the internet) has evolved in a way that is often indifferent to questions of human rights, justice and democracy.Research from this new white paper by the National Democratic Institute has found there is a lack of meaningful participation or oversight in these institutions from civil society, journalists and democratically elected political actors. The voices heard in internet policy and regulatory spaces are not geographically diverse, with inadequate representation from outside of North America, Europe and China. Even among high-income countries, women of all backgrounds, as well as people with disabilities and those who do not speak English fluently, face challenges in participating in internet governance fora.Current models of internet governance are being challenged from different directions, not all of them positive for democracy, as different stakeholders acknowledge these flaws. One challenge is in determining how multistakeholder institutions can reinvent themselves to offer a better alternative and avert a slide toward state-dominated governance models, by making themselves into something that stakeholders who currently feel excluded have greater reason to support. If these traditionally underrepresented stakeholders were to gain more negotiating leverage in internet governance institutions, existing and future norms would be renegotiated and the resulting standards, policies and protocols would have the potential to better serve democratic outcomes.This white paper explores some of the barriers to participation in national, regional and international fora on the development of internet norms, policies, and standards. It also outlines recommendations for different stakeholder groups, including donors, development agencies, governments, activists, civil society organizations, internet governance institutions, and the private sector, to improve coordination and make meaningful progress towards more inclusive outcomes.

Freedom in the World 2022: The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule

February 17, 2022

Freedom in the World 2022 evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories during calendar year 2021. Each country and territory is assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. The indicators are grouped into the categories of political rights (0–40) and civil liberties (0–60), whose totals are weighted equally to determine whether the country or territory has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.The methodology, which is derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is applied to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographic location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.Freedom in the World assesses the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals, rather than governments or government performance per se. Political rights and civil liberties can be affected by both state and nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups.

Defending Latin American Human Rights and Democracy Activists

January 26, 2022

This assessment builds on existing bodies of literature, interviews with key informants and stakeholders, two case studies, and Freedom House experiences to better understand the nature of the defense and protection of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and pro-democracy Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Latin America.The study undertakes an institutional and organizational landscape analysis to: determine which entities, organizations and individuals are involved in the protection and defense of HRDs and CSOs (with a particular focus on relocation); identify strategies and approaches to support the defense and protection of HRDs and CSOs within their countries and in exile; analyze the gaps and challenges of existing approaches; and develop recommendations to strengthen the protection and defense of HRDs in Latin America.Given time and resource limitations, the assessment was relatively narrow in its scope. As such, it is not intended to be an impact or capacity assessment; much less, an evaluation of specific programs and/or initiatives. Rather, it describes HRD protection systems in Latin America, highlights opportunities for future HRD activities and major areas that merit further regional and national attention, and HRD protection systems in Latin America. The assessment also highlights opportunities and offers strategic recommendations.

Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy under Siege

March 1, 2021

Freedom in the World 2021 evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories during calendar year 2020. Each country and territory is assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. The indicators are grouped into the categories of political rights (0–40) and civil liberties (0–60), whose totals are weighted equally to determine whether the country or territory has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.The methodology, which is derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is applied to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographic location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development. Freedom in the World assesses the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals, rather than governments or government performance per se. Political rights and civil liberties can be affected by both state and nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups.

Who Owns the Media in Bangladesh?

January 1, 2021

While there has been a significant growth of the media industry during the last two decades, Bangladesh  has  also  experienced  serious erosion  of  media  freedom.  To  unpack  the  complex relationship between ownership and media, gathering data and understanding the overlapping features of ownership are essential. It is against this background that this report has explored the question: who owns the media in Bangladesh? Relevant informationand statistics on the media in Bangladesh—both in terms of numbers of media outlets and their typologies, e.g., print, electronic, radio and web-based etc., the nature of media ownership and the scope of press freedom are presented in this report.