Political parties must ACT now to assure voters of clean online campaigning

Originally published June 29, 2020 on Academia.sg

Voters should require parties and candidates to pledge themselves to Accountability, Civility and Transparency in the use of online tools. By Damien ChngChong Ja IanCherian GeorgeHoward Lee and Netina Tan.

This General Election will be the most internet-reliant in the republic’s history. It is also Singapore’s first since it became clear to the world that online tricks for manipulating public opinion have outstripped societies’ traditional defences against disinformation. 

Many voters are by now on guard against “fake news”. Vigilant netizens are active in pushing back against abuses of online freedoms. Nevertheless, we believe Singapore remains vulnerable to parties’ sophisticated and often invisible computational propaganda as well as cybertroopers [1] — traditionally associated with authoritarian regimes such as China and Turkey.

Candidates and political parties involved in GE2020 should publicly commit to clean and fair online campaigning. Voters should hold to account those trying to benefit from the cynical and underhanded use of manipulative technologies. Two risks are of concern. First, there is the abuse of online tools to deceive voters by, for example, the use of bots to give voters a misleading picture about the state of public opinion. Second, although polarising rhetoric has always featured in elections, digital techniques such as micro-targeting [2] and profiling take this tendency to new extremes, with divisive effects that may long outlast the elections. Both risks were highlighted by government ministers in recent years [3], so we hope that the incumbent party as well as challengers disavow these campaign methods unequivocally. 

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How will Small Ethnic Parties Perform in the Upcoming 2020 General Elections?

Netina Tan and Cassandra Preece

Originally published June 24, 2020 on PK FORUM

Regardless of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Myanmar appears to be going ahead with general elections in December this year. Will there be continued support for the National League for Democracy (NLD)? Or will ethnic parties gain more popular votes and seat shares this time round?

Election prediction is tricky. In the last 2015 general election, the results surprised many observers and experts, as there was an unexpected ethnic swing support for the NLD. Given the recent trend of party mergers between ethnic parties….will the NLD’s electoral fortune change?

Recent reports indicate that the 2020 elections may be more competitive than expected.

Our paper, “Ethnic Party Success: The Mechanical and Psychological Effects of Plurality Rule in Myanmar” explains the conditions under which ethnic parties can succeed in Myanmar, if they are strategic by fielding candidates in selective districts.

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The Department of Political Science at McMaster University stands in solidarity with Black communities at home and around the world in condemning all forms of racial injustice and acknowledging in particular the suffering that Black people everywhere continue to endure as a result of systemic anti-Black racism.

As political scientists, we study how power functions within societies and to whose benefit it inures. The historic and more recent violence against members of Black communities in Canada and other jurisdictions emphasizes the pervasive and on-going disparity in power relations between White and racialized people.

As a Department, we are also directly implicated in the same power disparities that we study. 

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