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The automation of consensus: Democracy and the dark arts

On 14 November 2017, the Intellectual Forum co-hosted with Byline Cambridge a discussion with Oliver Bullough (journalist and author of The Last Man in Russia), Mary Fitzgerald (editor of Open Democracy), Peter Jukes (the CEO of Byline) and Professor John Naughton (Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology, Open University).

The panel explored, as the role of Mercer and Cambridge Analytica had comes under scrutiny in the US in the congressional investigations into Russian influence, whether the utopian promises of the sharing digital economy have now turned into a dark dystopian present. They questioned, has the information revolution placed democracy in greater danger than ever before? 

The panel considered, as we are enabling the global movement of finance, especially dark money through offshore funds, how governments could regulate the new digital giants like Facebook, Apple, Google or Amazon. Also, they explored whether social media had not only corroded truth on old news sources, but replaced Chomsky's 'Manufacture of Consensus' with the 'Automation of Consensus' through algorithms, bots and weaponised propaganda using big data.