Johns Hopkins University

Report Builds Framework For Journalists to Examine ‘Digital Political Ethics’ For Online Campaign Ads

Author available to discuss recommendations for campaigns, tech platforms and regulators to tame the freewheeling realm of online political advertising.
8-Jan-2020 11:00 AM EST, by Johns Hopkins University

Newswise — With the 2020 elections looming and amid continuing concerns over social media’s role in U.S. politics, Johns Hopkins University has an expert ready to discuss a comprehensive new report recommending how candidates, tech platforms and regulators can ensure that digital political campaigns promote and protect fair elections.

The report, Digital Political Ethics: Aligning Principles with Practice, was developed by Johns Hopkins political scientist Adam Sheingate and several co-authors by conducting extensive interviews with digital political consultants and executives from platforms such as Facebook.

From those discussions four broad ethical principles emerged for how campaigns, platforms, and regulators handle digital campaigns: They should encourage voter participation, protect election integrity, increase transparency, and ensure fairness and consistency. The authors detail 12 recommendations – including a call for federal regulations – to achieve those goals.

For example: Digital campaigns should not use hacked or stolen materials or accept help from foreign agents. Platforms should not ban political advertising, as Twitter did last year. And campaigns making exaggerated claims should provide proof just as TV ads are required to do by federal regulations that do not exist yet for digital efforts.

The report covers a variety of issues critical to the 2020 elections: microtargeting, government regulation of online ads, data transparency practices of Facebook and Google, security of voter data, and the role of misinformation.

The authors encourage journalists to use these ethical best practices when examining the digital practices of campaigns since there is no federal oversight.

The report was co-authored with Daniel Kreiss of the University of North Carolina, Leticia Bode of Georgetown University, and Jessica Baldwin-Philippi of Fordham University. It was funded by the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Sheingate, contact Douglas Donovan at 443-997-9907, 443-462-2947 or at douglasjdonovan@jhu.edu.

To arrange a video or audio interview with a Johns Hopkins expert, contact a media representative listed above or visit our studio web page

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