Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-05052021-164428

Type of thesis
Master di Primo Livello
Electoral Integrity in the Digital Age: ICTs as a Double-Edged Sword in the Pre-Electoral Phase
Istituto di Diritto, Politica e Sviluppo
Membro Dott. PIRAS, ELISA
  • Context-Contingent Policy Measures
  • Electoral Integrity
  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • Pre-electoral Phase
Exam session start date
Whilst the widespread use of Information and Communication Technologies throughout the election cycle is at the center of contemporary debates, scholars are constantly in disagreement as to the impact and potential of the former on Electoral Integrity. Electoral Integrity, as reflected in international standards and agreements, portrays the imperative that an election should preserve democratic principles of universal suffrage, transparency and impartiality in its preparation and administration as well as political equality throughout the electoral cycle. The principles of Electoral Integrity are thus seen echoing the principles of article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which further emphasizes the interdependence between Electoral Integrity and Human Rights principles. <br><br>Knowing that the usage of ICTs in elections is currently wider than ever, advocates of its usage emphasize its potential as a catalyst for Electoral Integrity through its contribution to information sharing and freedom of expression which are cornerstones of free and fair elections. Nevertheless, the use of ICTs is also often revealed as having a detrimental effect on Electoral Integrity, as it is often weaponized to increase polarization and distrust, spread disinformation, hate speech, propaganda, and so forth. Although both sides harbor strong theoretical arguments, empirical research on this topic has been scarce and targeted mainly the electoral and post-electoral phase. This dissertation will thus focus on the pre-electoral phase, exploring the usage of ICTs and its impact on Electoral Integrity. The main research query is henceforth: What is the Impact of the use of ICTs in the pre-electoral phase on Electoral Integrity and what are consequently the guidelines regarding context-contingent policy measures to increase the opportunities and address the challenges generated by the use of ICTs in order to preserve and strengthen Electoral Integrity?<br><br>The literature review will illustrate the components of Electoral Integrity in the digital age, the actors involved in the pre-electoral phase (Local Government, Foreign Actors, Political Parties, Media, Platforms, EMBs and Citizens) and how the usage of technology by the latter impacts the cited components. The idea is to demonstrate the role of ICTs as a double-edged sword, having the potential to both strengthen and undermine the integrity of elections. The first section will also emphasize the integral role of the electoral context as a moderator, combining both context-contingent vulnerabilities (risk factors) and precautions (protective factors). The Empirical analysis will consequently portray comparative case studies featuring the above-mentioned hypotheses, by reiterating the twofold role of ICTs in the pre-electoral phase on Electoral Integrity and emphasizing the effect of the electoral context on said role. Four case studies will be analyzed targeting respectively: strict regulations in a low-vulnerability environment; a quasi-regulatory model in a medium-vulnerability environment; and a self-regulation model versus a partnerships model both in high-vulnerability environments. These case studies will thus feature an analysis of the Electoral Integrity index disparity and the inherent contextual environment of the following countries correspondingly: Germany, Belgium, USA and Mexico. This dissertation will therefore identify and frame the inherent challenges and opportunities arising from the spread of ICTs in the pre-election phase, before presenting guidelines regarding context-contingent policy measures that address the challenges but also promote the opportunities offered by ICTs for preserving and strengthening Electoral Integrity. <br><br>Key words: Information and Communication Technologies, Electoral Integrity, Pre-electoral Phase, Context-Contingent Policy Measures. <br>