Threats to Digital Democracy: New Findings for Canadian Governance

In recent years, social media has provided a platform to share and discuss things big and small, and has given a voice to the unheard that was unimaginable mere decades ago. It’s given rise to movements such as #metoo, the Hong Kong protests, and Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign. However – this democratic expansion has not been without growing pains – as it’s also facilitated the growth of extremist actors, populist political campaigns, and disinformation. Canada is not insulated from the risks arising from social media and the digital era. Today we will discuss the threats posed to democracy and the potential policy responses with thought leaders Keiller Zed and Stephanie MacLennan.

Keiller Zed is a communications and public policy professional and e-democracy advocate. As an Account Director with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a leading international public relations firm, Keiller advises corporate clients on an array of communications strategies, many of which include digital. Before joining H+K, Keiller served as a senior advisor to the former Premier of New Brunswick and at 26, became the youngest Executive Director in the history of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick. Keiller has worked as a campaign strategist on over a dozen provincial and federal elections in Canada, including the recent 2019 federal campaign, as well as in the United Kingdom on the 2016 Brexit Referendum and the 2017 general election campaigns. Inspired by the results of Brexit, he has developed a passion for e-democracy and has undertaken academic research focusing on the impact of digital disinformation on the integrity of democratic systems. 

Stephanie MacLellan is a fellow with the Public Policy Forum and a member of the Digital Democracy Project, a study of the digital media ecosystem during the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign. Before joining PPF she was a senior research associate with the Centre for International Governance Innovation in the Global Security & Politics Program, specializing in cyber security, online disinformation, digital rights, and related policy issues. Previously, she spent more than a decade working as a journalist for newspapers such as the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator. Her work has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards. 

This episode was produced by Anna Millar (Senior Producer), Duncan Cooper (Junior Producer and Social Media Director), Diana Lu (Junior Producer) with the support of Alex Gold-Apel (Executive Director). 

Music Credits:

1. Ten Years by Classified 

2. Joan of Arc by Arcade Fire 

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