The Brussels Democracy Forum met for the first time on November 28, 2020 at the initiative of various ministerial advisors who saw themselves prompted to cooperate intensively and constructively as part of the interfederal corona crisis management. The aim of the think tank is to bring together politicians and experts from Belgium and Europe across all parties and communities to discuss topics of social interest.
In its first virtual working session, the forum dealt with the effects of new communication technologies on society and democratic institutions. High-ranking guests were in particular Prof. Lutz Hagen, Director of the Institute for Communication Studies at the University of Dresden (D), and Susanne Reitmair-Juárez from the Democracy Center Vienna (A).
Based on the knowledge gathered and further considerations, the Brussels Democracy Forum has now published an initial position paper with 24 recommendations in the areas of regulation, sustainable innovation, quality content and education.
Daniel Hilligsmann, founder of the forum:
“Due to profit-oriented business models, new media often favor the amplification of lurid, simplistic and polarizing content. It is important to keep the user on the screen as often and as long as possible through systematic confirmation and rewards as well as tailor-made content. We have to talk about what our society expects from new media and when they start to harm people. Not everything that works is good. "
In its recommendations, the Brussels Democracy Forum addresses addiction potential, loneliness and other effects of massive digital media consumption on mental health and cognitive abilities, especially with regard to children. The forum also describes amplification effects in favor of fake news, racism, sexism, hostility to the disabled and homophobia. Last but not least, the effects of social media on the press and democracy are discussed.
On January 11, 2021, the Brussels Democracy Forum sent its recommendations to tech operators Facebook, Google and Twitter. The declared aim is to initiate a constructive dialogue between operators, science and politics.
The authors of the position paper
From left to right: David Leisterh, Khalil Aouasti, Daniel Hilligsmann, Audrey Henry, Sébastien Dewailly.