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Tracking online toxicity in # Elxn44


There is no doubt that social media has changed politics. It has connected politicians and voters and made it easier for them to talk to one another more freely than ever before.

But these sites have also changed the way people communicate with politicians. If you look at a politician’s responses to a tweet, you will see a series of responses expressing disapproval or support. But there is also a steady stream of hatred against politicians from a minority of people who engage in behavior that experts call “toxic”.

It is easy to dismiss these tweets as nothing more than posts on a website, but they can actually have a detrimental effect on our democracy. Not only do they complicate the already difficult work of politicians, they also dampen people’s willingness to engage in political talks online and discourage people from entering the political arena.

My guest today is hoping to stop online toxicity for the benefit of Canadian democracy. Sabreena Delhon is the executive director of the Samara Center for Democracy, a charity dedicated to strengthening democracy in Canada. The Samara Center recently partnered with Areto Labs on a project that is tracking the tweets of incumbents applying for re-election to find out how toxic those tweets are and who is receiving them. Today we are discussing the project as well as SAMbot with which you are tracking this data and how you want to promote a positive cultural change in digital democracy.

This podcast is part of the special feature How can we improve the electoral process.

Free download. New episodes every second Wednesday. Tweet your questions and comments to @IRPP or a member of the team (@JRicardoBM, @jenditchburn, @colmfosullivan, or @cleadesjardins).

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