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    This study explores the spread of disinformation relating to the Covid-19 pandemic on the internet, dubbed by some as the pandemic’s accompanying “infodemic”, and the societal reactions to this development across different countries and platforms. The study’s focus is on the role of states and platforms in combatting online disinformation.
    Through synthesizing answers to questions submitted by more than 40 researchers from 20 countries within the GDHR Network, this exploratory study provides a first overview of how states and platforms have dealt with Corona-related disinformation. This can also provide incentives for further rigorous studies of disinformation governance standards and their impact across different socio-cultural environments.
    Regarding the platforms’ willingness and efficacy in removing (presumed) disinformation, a majority of submissions identifies a shift towards more intervention in pandemic times. Most submitters assess that this shift is widely welcomed in their respective countries and more often considered as taking place too slowly (rather than being perceived as entailing dangers for unjustified restrictions of freedom of expression). The picture is less clear when it comes to enforcing non-speech related infection prevention measures.
    While the dominant platforms have been able to defend, or even solidify, their position during the pandemic, communicative practices on those platforms are changing. For officials, this includes an increasing reliance on platforms, especially social networks, for communicating infection prevention rules and recommendations. For civil society, the pandemic has brought an increasing readiness – and perceived need – to intervene against disinformation, especially through fact-checking initiatives.
    National and local contexts show great variance at whether platform-driven disinformation is conceived as a societal problem. In countries where official sources are distrusted and/or seen as disseminating disinformation criticism against private information governance by platforms remains muted. In countries where official sources are trusted disinformation present on platforms is seen more negatively.
    While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram play important roles in the pandemic communication environment, some replies point towards an increasing importance of messaging apps for the circulation of Covid-19-related disinformation. These apps, like Telegram or WhatsApp, tend to fall under the radar of researchers, because visibility of content is limited and scraping is difficult, and because they are not covered by Network Enforcement Act-type laws that usually exclude one-to-one communication platforms (even if they offer one-to-many channels).
    Vis-à-vis widespread calls for a (re)territorialization of their content governance standards and processes amid the pandemic, platform companies have maintained, by and large, global standards. Standardized, featured sections for national (health) authorities to distribute official information via platforms are exceptions thereto.


Matthias C. Kettemann
Prof. dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard) is head of the research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces” at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut.

Martin Fertmann
Martin Fertmann is a PhD student at the Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut’s research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces”.

    Terms-of-service based actions against political and state actors as both key subjects and objects of political opinion formation have become a focal point of the ongoing debates over who should set and enforce the rules for speech on online platforms.
    With minor differences depending on national contexts, state regulation of platforms creating obligations to disseminate such actors’ information is considered dangerous for the free and unhindered discursive process that leads to the formation of public opinions.
    Reactions to the suspension of Trump as not the first, but the most widely discussed action of platform companies against a politician (and incumbent president) provide a glimpse on the state of platform governance debates across participating countries.
    Across the countries surveyed politicians tend to see the exercise of content moderation policies of large platform companies very critically
    The majority of politicians in European countries seem to be critical of the deplatforming of Trump, emphasizing fundamental rights and calling for such decisions to be made by states, not private companies
    These political standpoints stand in an unresolved conflict with the constitutional realities of participating countries, where incumbents usually cannot invoke fundamental rights when acting in their official capacities and where laws with “must carry” requirements for official information do not exist for social media and would likely only be constitutional for narrowly defined, special circumstances such as disaster prevention.
    Facebooks’ referral of the Trump-decision to its Oversight Board sparked a larger debate about institutional structures for improving content governance. The majority of participating countries has experience with self- or co-regulatory press-, media- or broadcasting councils to which comparisons can be drawn, foreshadowing the possible (co-regulatory) future of governing online speech.
    Media commentators in participating countries interpreted the deplatforming of Trump as a signal that far-right parties and politicians around the world may face increasing scrutiny, while conservative politicians and governments in multiple participating countries instrumentalized the actions against Trump as supposed proof of platform’s bias against conservative opinions.
    Even without specific legal requirements on content moderation, submissions from several countries refer to a general – often: constitutional – privileging of speech of politicians and office holders. This could potentially support or even compel the decisions of platforms to leave content of political actors up even if it violates their terms of service.


Martin Fertmann
Martin Fertmann is a PhD student at the Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut’s research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces”

Matthias C. Kettemann
Prof. dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard) is head of the research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces” at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut.
Article

Access_open Victims’ Fundamental Need for Safety and Privacy and the Role of Legislation and Empirical Evidence

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 3 2021
Keywords needs for safety, victim impact statements, legislation, Empirical Legal Studies, privacy protection
Authors Marijke Malsch
AbstractAuthor's information

    Various laws, guidelines and other types of regulation have been created that introduced new rights worldwide for victims of crime. Many of these rights focus on active victims who wish to step into the open and to orally express their views and experiences in court. Rights and wishes to remain in the background and to preserve one’s privacy received less attention. This article focuses primarily on the wishes of victims that reveal their intention to not play an active role in the criminal process, and on victims who fear an invasion of their safety and privacy. According to the literature, such wishes and needs can be considered to be fundamental. The article questions the empirical basis for the present victim legislation: are the new laws that have been created over the decades founded on empirically established victim needs, or on presumed victim needs? The article concludes with a plea for a more extensive use of empirical findings that shed light on victim wishes in the legislation and the criminal process.


Marijke Malsch
Marijke Malsch is Professor of Empirical Legal Studies at Open Universiteit Netherlands.
Article

Opposition in Times of COVID-19 – To Support or Not to Support?

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords minority government, rally-around-the-flag, COVID-19, mainstream parties, challenger parties, opposition, party goals
Authors Britt Vande Walle, Wouter Wolfs and Steven Van Hecke
AbstractAuthor's information

    COVID-19 has hit many countries all over the world, and its impact on (party) politics has been undeniable. This crisis situation functions as an opportunity structure incentivising opposition forces to support the government. Not much is known about what drives opposition parties to (not) support the government in crisis situations. This article integrates the literature on rally-around-the-flag, political opportunity structures, party types and party goals. More specifically, we focus on the behaviour of opposition parties towards the government’s crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We analyse whether and how the party type influences the position of the party vis-à-vis the governmental coalition, focusing on the case of Belgium. We categorise the seven opposition parties in Belgium as challenger or mainstream parties and explain their behaviour on the basis of policy-, office- or vote-seeking motives. Our analysis is based on party voting behaviour, elite interviews and an analysis of the main plenary debates.


Britt Vande Walle
Britt Vande Walle is PhD Researcher at the KU Leuven Public Governance Instituted, funded by a FWO fellowship ‘Fundamental Research’. Her research focuses on comparative politics, political parties, and political party think tanks. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9594-9897.

Wouter Wolfs
Wouter Wolfs is Senior Researcher at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute. His research interests include the European Union, political finance, legislative studies and political parties. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6214-5972.

Steven Van Hecke
Steven Van Hecke is Associate Professor in Comparative and EU Politics at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute. His research focuses on Europarties, EU institutions and European integration history. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0215-5463.
Article

‘Think Like Me, and I Will Trust You’

The Effects of Policy Opinion Congruence on Citizens’ Trust in the Parliament

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 3 2021
Keywords political representation, parliaments, opinion congruence, political trust, public opinion
Authors Awenig Marié and David Talukder
AbstractAuthor's information

    Do citizens with a lower level of political representation evaluate political actors more negatively? While the literature has documented inequalities in political representation, less attention has been given to the extent to which different levels of representation affect citizens’ levels of political trust. We aimed to fill this gap by analysing whether Belgian citizens with a lower level of policy opinion congruence with their party’s legislators have lower levels of trust in the parliament. Our results show that policy opinion congruence has a positive impact on citizens’ political attitudes. Indeed, citizens with policy preferences closer to those of their political representatives tend to have higher levels of trust in the parliament. This rela‍tionship depends on political sophistication: policy opinion congruence affects political trust for most citizens except those who consider themselves to be ‘very interested’ in politics. Citizens with a very high level of interest in politics trust the parliament regardless of policy opinion congruence with their party’s legislators.


Awenig Marié
Awenig Marié is a FNRS research fellow and a PhD candidate at the Université libre de Bruxelles. His main research interests include political inequalities, political representation, parliaments and EU politics.

David Talukder
David Talukder is a PhD candidate at the Université libre de Bruxelles. His main research interests are democratic innovations, political representation, disadvantaged groups and democratic reforms.
Article

Access_open The Determinants of Committee Membership in Belgium and the Netherlands

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 3 2021
Keywords parliamentary committees, legislative organisation
Authors Tim Mickler
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article I analyse whether differences in formal committee structures affect how parliamentary actors organise their work within them. I compare the allocation of members to specialised committees in the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) and the Belgian Chamber of Representatives (Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers/Chambre des Représentants) to test whether committee assignments are given more serious consideration when committees are strong. Despite many similarities, both parliaments differ in their internal institutional arrangements: committees in the Chamber of Representatives are, at least formally, considerably more powerful than those in the Dutch Lower House. The article uses the congressional theories of legislative organisation as heuristic devices to deduce several rationales of the assignment process. The role of parliamentary party groups is highlighted. The results indicate the presence of stable, reoccurring patterns in both parliaments. Even in the House of Representatives, where committees present lower opportunity structures, assignments are given due consideration.


Tim Mickler
Tim Alexander Mickler is an assistant professor at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. Corresponding author: Tim Mickler at t.a.mickler@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
Article

Cancelling proposed debates

Agenda Setting, Issue Ownership and Anti-elitist Parliamentary Style

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 3 2021
Keywords agenda-setting, parliaments, anti-elitism, issue-ownership
Authors Simon Otjes and Roy Doedens
AbstractAuthor's information

    The Dutch Tweede Kamer is unique among parliaments because here the agenda is actually determined in a public, plenary meeting of all MPs. In the Dutch Tweede Kamer 30 members of parliament (MPs) can request a plenary debate. Many opposition parties request these debates, but only 23% of these are actually held. We examine the question ‘under what conditions do political party groups cancel or maintain proposals for minority debates?’ as a way to gain insight into the black box of parliamentary agenda setting. We examine two complementary explanations: issue competition and parliamentary style. We trace all 687 minority debates that were proposed between 2012 and 2021 in the Netherlands. This allows us to see what proposals for debates MPs make and when they are retracted. We find strong evidence that anti-elitist parties maintain more debate proposals than do other parties


Simon Otjes
Simon Otjes is assistant professor of Dutch Politics at Leiden University and researcher at Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties. His research focuses on political parties, legislative behaviour and interest groups in Europe and the Netherlands specifically. He has previously published on legislative behaviour in West European Politics, the Journal of Legislative Studies and Party Politics.

Roy Doedens
Roy Doedens studied Philosophy and International Relations and International Organizations at Groningen University and Political Science at Leiden University. Currently, he works as a public affairs advisor at Erasmus University.
Article

Performing the COVID-19 Crisis in Flemish Populist Radical-Right Discourse

A Case Study of Vlaams Belang’s Coronablunderboek

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords populism, COVID-19, crisis, discourse
Authors Jens Meijen
AbstractAuthor's information

    In June 2020, the Flemish populist radical right party Vlaams Belang (VB) published the Corona Blunder Book (CBB; Coronablunderboek in Dutch), detailing the government’s mistakes in handling the COVID-19 crisis. Populist parties can ‘perform’ crisis by emphasising the mistakes made by opponents (Moffitt, 2015) and may use a specifically populist discursive style, consisting largely of aggressive and sarcastic language (Brubaker, 2017). This paper takes the CBB as a case study in the populist performance of crisis and the populist style, finding that the book is, first, a clear example of populist ‘everyman’ stylistics and the performance of crisis, and, second, that VB uses the book to shift the COVID-19 crisis from a public health crisis to a crisis of governance, seeking to blame Belgium’s federal structure for the government’s alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic and hence arguing for Flemish independence, one of the party’s main agenda points.


Jens Meijen
Jens Meijen is a PhD candidate at Leuven International and European Studies (LINES) at KU Leuven. His research focuses on nationalism, populism, and diplomacy.
Article

The Praise for a ‘Caretaker’ Leader

Gendered Press Coverage of Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès in a COVID-19 Context

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords political leadership, crisis, care, Belgium, gendered media coverage
Authors Clémence Deswert
AbstractAuthor's information

    Studies on media coverage of women politicians have underlined how the media contribute to the association of the figure of the political leader with masculinity. Yet, the social construction of leadership seems to evolve towards a more ‘femininity-inclusive’ definition. Research on the ‘glass cliff’ phenomenon suggests that stereotypical feminine attributes might be expected from political leaders in a time of crisis. We investigated the gendered construction of political leadership in the press in a COVID-19 context through the case of former Belgian Prime minister Sophie Wilmès. In line with the ‘think crisis-think female’ association, our discourse analysis shows an appreciation of traditionally feminine traits, and particularly care-related qualities, in the evaluation of what a ‘good’ leader should be in pandemic times, although some characteristics traditionally associated with masculinity are still considered valuable assets in the journalistic portrayal of Wilmès’ leadership.


Clémence Deswert
Clémence Deswert is a PhD candidate at the Political Science Department of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Her research interests include political communication and political representation of women. Declaration of interests: I confirm that this article was not submitted to or publicised in another journal. No conflict of interest exists.
Article

Access_open The Resilience of Democracy in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Democratic Compensators in Belgium, the Netherlands and France

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords COVID-19, crisis-management, democratic compensators, exceptionalism
Authors Tom Massart, Thijs Vos, Clara Egger e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since January 2020, European countries have implemented a wide range of restrictions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet governments have also implemented democratic compensators in order to offset the negative impacts of restrictions. This article aims to account for the variation of their use between Belgium, the Netherlands and France. We analyse three drivers: the strength of counterpowers, the ruling parties’ ideological leanings and political support. Building on an original data set, our results distinguish between embedded and ad hoc compensators. We find that ad hoc compensators are championed mainly by counterpowers, but also by ideology of the ruling coalitions in Belgium and the Netherlands and used strategically to maintain political support in France. Evidence on the link between embedded compensators and counterpowers is more ambiguous.


Tom Massart
Tom Massart is a PhD candidate at ULB / CEVIPOL. His research mainly focuses on European economic governance.

Thijs Vos
Thijs Vos is a political scientist and research assistant at Groningen University.

Clara Egger
Clara Egger is assistant professor in international relations at Groningen University. She is currently leading the Exceptius project on Covid19 containment policies in Europe.

Claire Dupuy
Claire Dupuy is professor of comparative politics at UCLouvain. She specializes in comparative public policy with a focus on multilevel governance, federalism and regionalization processes.

Constance Morel-Jean
Constance Morel-Jean is a master’s student at Grenoble-Alpes University. She specialises in the study of political behaviour.

Raul Magni-Berton
Raul Magni-Berton is professor of political science at Grenoble-Alpes University, PACTE research unit. His research mainly focuses on democracy, its institutions and norms.

Sébastian Roché
Sebastian Roché is CNRS Research Professor at Grenoble-Alpes University, PACTE research unit. He specializes in policing and legitimacy studies.
Article

Access_open Approach with Caution

Sunset Clauses as Safeguards of Democracy?

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords emergency legislation, sunset clauses, post-legislative review, COVID-19
Authors Sean Molloy
AbstractAuthor's information

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders across the globe scrambled to adopt emergency legislation. Amongst other things, these measures gave significant powers to governments in order to curb the spreading of a virus, which has shown itself to be both indiscriminate and deadly. Nevertheless, exceptional measures, however necessary in the short term, can have adverse consequences both on the enjoyment of human rights specifically and democracy more generally. Not only are liberties severely restricted and normal processes of democratic deliberation and accountability constrained but the duration of exceptional powers is also often unclear. One potentially ameliorating measure is the use of sunset clauses: dispositions that determine the expiry of a law or regulation within a predetermined period unless a review determines that there are reasons for extension. The article argues that without effective review processes, far from safeguarding rights and limiting state power, sunset clauses can be utilized to facilitate the transferring of emergency powers whilst failing to guarantee the very problems of normalized emergency they are included to prevent. Thus, sunset clauses and the review processes that attach to them should be approached with caution.


Sean Molloy
Dr Sean Molloy is a Lecturer in Law at Northumbria University.
Article

The Impact of VAAs on Vote Switching at the 2019 Belgian Legislative Elections

More Switchers, but Making Their Own Choices

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2021
Keywords voting advice applications, vote switching, vote choice, elections and electoral behaviour, voters/citizens in Belgium, VAA
Authors David Talukder, Laura Uyttendaele, Isaïa Jennart e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    During electoral campaigns, the use of voting advice applications (VAAs) has become increasingly widespread. Consequently, scholars have examined both the patterns of usage and their effects on voting behaviour. However, existing studies lead to conflicting findings. In this article, we take a closer look at the effect of De Stemtest/Test électoral (a VAA developed by academics from the University of Louvain and the University of Antwerp, in partnership with Belgian media partners) on vote switching. More specifically, we divide this latter question into two sub-questions: (1) What is the impact of a (dis)confirming advice from the VAA on vote switching? (2) Do VAA users follow the voting advice provided by the VAA? Our study shows that receiving a disconfirming advice from the VAA increases the probability of users to switch their vote choice.


David Talukder
David Talukder is a PhD candidate at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium). He works within the research project “Reforming Representative Democracy”. His main research interests are democratic innovations, political representation, and democratic reforms.

Laura Uyttendaele
Laura Uyttendaele is a PhD candidate at the University of Louvain (UCLouvain, Belgium). Her main research interests are Voting Advice Applications, Youth & politics, political attitudes and behaviours, and experimental methods.

Isaïa Jennart
Isaïa Jennart is a PhD candidate (Universiteit Antwerpen & VUB, Belgium) interested in public opinion, electoral campaigns, voting behaviour, Voting Advice Applications and political knowledge. He mainly studies citizens’ knowledge of parties’ issue positions.

Benoît Rihoux
Benoît Rihoux is full professor in political science at the University of Louvain (UCLouvain, Belgium). His research covers comparative methods (especially QCA) as well as diverse topics in comparative politics, political organizations and political behaviour.
Article

Access_open An Actor Approach to Mediatization

Linking Politicians’ Media Perceptions, Communication Behaviour and Appearances in the News

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2021
Keywords mediatization, politicians, news media, media perceptions, news management
Authors Pauline Ketelaars and Peter Van Aelst
AbstractAuthor's information

    In the light of the broader debate on the mediatization of politics, this study wants to better understand how the media perceptions and media behaviour of politicians are related to their appearances in the news. We opt for an innovative actor-centred approach to actually measure the views and actions of individual politicians. We combine surveys conducted with 142 Belgian representatives with data on politicians’ external communication behaviour and on their appearances in television news, newspapers and news websites. The results show that media behaviour is not so much related to beliefs of media importance. We do find a significant positive relationship between strategic media behaviour and media attention suggesting that politicians who put in more effort appear more often in various news media. However, this positive relationship depends on the specific form of strategic communication and the political position of the legislator. Our study adds to the mediatization literature by showing how and when politicians are successful in obtaining media attention.


Pauline Ketelaars
Pauline Ketelaars was a postdoctoral researcher of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO). Her main research interests are political communication and social movements.

Peter Van Aelst
Peter Van Aelst is a research professor at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp and a founding member of the research group ‘Media, Movements and Politics’ (M2P). His research focuses on political communication. Corresponding author: peter.vanaelst@uantwerpen.be.
Article

Reducing Ethnic Conflict in Guyana through Political Reform

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 1 2021
Keywords Guyana, race, ethnic conflict, political power, constitutional reform
Authors Nicola Pierre
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article discusses using constitutional reform to reduce ethnic conflict in Guyana. I start by exploring the determinants of ethnic conflict. I next examine Guyana’s ethnopolitical history to determine what factors led to political alignment on ethnic lines and then evaluate the effect of the existing political institutions on ethnic conflict. I close with a discussion on constitutional reform in which I consider a mix of consociationalist, integrative, and power-constraining mechanisms that may be effective in reducing ethnic conflict in Guyana’s ethnopolitical circumstances.


Nicola Pierre
Nicola Pierre is Commissioner of Title and Land Court Judge in Guyana.
Article

Access_open Bits and Bytes and Apps – Oh My!

Scary Things in the ODR Forest

Journal International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution, Issue 1 2021
Keywords access to justice, digital divide, Artificial Intelligence, algorithms, Online Dispute Resolution
Authors Daniel Rainey and Larry Bridgesmith
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article addresses three issues related to online dispute resolution (ODR) that offer promise, and may carry risks for those who develop, provide, and use technology to address disputes and confects. The authors offer some principles to guide the use of technology, and some predictions about the future of ODR.


Daniel Rainey
A version of this article will be published in Portuguese as a chapter in Processo Civil e Tecnologia: os impactos da virada tecnologia no mundo, Dierle Nunes, Paulo Lucon and Isadora Werneck, eds., Editora Juspodivm, Salvador/BA–Brazil, forthcoming 2021. Daniel Rainey is, among other things, a principal in Holistic Solutions, Inc., a Fellow of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution (NCTDR), a founding Board Member of the International Council for Online Dispute Resolution (ICODR), Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution (IJODR) and a Member of the Self-Represented Litigants Committee of the Access to Justice Commission of the Virginia Supreme Court.

Larry Bridgesmith
Larry Bridgesmith is, among other things, a practicing lawyer, professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School and co-founder of its Program on Law & Innovation, a Fellow of the International Association of Mediators, co-founder of LegalAlignment LLC, AccelerateInsite LLC and Lifefilz Inc., co-founder of the International Institute of Legal Project Management and Chair of the Tennessee Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission.
Article

Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania

Recognizing Individual Harm Caused by Cyber Hate?

Journal East European Yearbook on Human Rights, Issue 1 2020
Keywords hate speech, verbal hate crime, cyber hate, effective investigation, homophobia
Authors Viktor Kundrák
AbstractAuthor's information

    The issue of online hatred or cyber hate is at the heart of heated debates over possible limitations of online discussions, namely in the context of social media. There is freedom of expression and the value of the internet in and of itself on the one hand, and the need to protect the rights of victims, to address intolerance and racism, as well as the overarching values of equality of all in dignity and rights, on the other. Criminalizing some (forms of) expressions seems to be problematic but, many would agree, under certain circumstances, a necessary or even unavoidable solution. However, while the Court has long ago declared as unacceptable bias-motivated violence and direct threats, which under Articles 2, 3 and 8 in combination with Article 14 of the ECHR, activate the positive obligation of states to effectively investigate hate crimes, the case of Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania presented the first opportunity for the Court to extend such an obligation to the phenomenon of online verbal hate crime. This article will first address the concepts of hate speech and hate crime, including their intersection and, through the lens of pre-existing case law, identify the key messages for both national courts and practitioners. On the margins, the author will also discuss the issue of harm caused by verbal hate crime and the need to understand and recognize its gravity.


Viktor Kundrák
Viktor Kundrák has worked for the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a Hate Crime Officer since 2018. He has been responsible for ODIHR’s hate crime reporting, trained police, prosecutors and judges, and provided legislative and policy support at the national level. He is also a PhD candidate at Charles University in Prague. The views in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of ODIHR. Some of the opinions are based on an article published in Czech earlier this year (see V. Kundrák & M. Hanych, ‘Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania (Verbal Hate Crime on Social Network and Discriminatory Investigation)’, The Overview of the Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, Vol. 3, 2020.
Article

Digital Equals Public

Assembly Meetings Under a Lockdown Regime

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 4 2020
Keywords COVID-19 regulation, temporary legislation, sunset clauses, digitalization, digital democracy, local democracy, experimental legislation
Authors Lianne van Kalken and Evert Stamhuis
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article we examine the Dutch emergency legislation for local democracy. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands, the Temporary Act for digital meetings for local/regional government tiers was enacted. The legislature introduced a system of digital debate and decision-making for municipal and provincial councils, the democratically elected assemblies at the local and regional levels. At the same time the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations set up an evaluation committee to monitor and evaluate the working of the local and provincial governments with this temporary legislation.
    This article discusses the content and application of the temporary provisions for deliberation and decision-making on a digital platform. The purpose of the legislation is to create possibilities for the elected representatives to continue their work during the lockdown. We examine the design and structure of the legislation and disclose the evaluation results so far. The arrangements aim for secure, transparent and reliable democratic practices. Early evidence pertaining to the effects of the Act show that it works effectively only up to a certain level. We critically discuss the sunset clause in the Act and plead against function creep. Moreover, the expectations now and in the future from continuous digitalization of this part of the democratic process should be modest. On the basis of our analysis of the characteristics of the legislation and the effects on the political work of the representatives, we conclude that the current form of digitalization does not provide for the interaction between representatives and their constituencies and the communities at large.


Lianne van Kalken
Lianne van Kalken is lecturer and researcher constitutional law in Erasmus School of Law. She was a member of the evaluation committee, but contributes to this article in a personal capacity. For further affiliations see http://www.linkedin.com/in/liannevankalken/.

Evert Stamhuis
Evert F. Stamhuis is chair Law & Innovation at Erasmus School of Law and senior fellow of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence on Digital Governance. See for other affiliations https://www.linkedin.com/in/evertstamhuis/
Article

Emergency Measures in Response to the Coronavirus Crisis and Parliamentary Oversight in the EU Member States

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 4 2020
Keywords states of emergency, parliamentary oversight, health crisis, Covid-19, European Union Member States
Authors Maria Diaz Crego and Silvia Kotanidis
AbstractAuthor's information

    The Covid-19 pandemic has become a true stress test for the legal systems of the worst hit countries. Faced with a health crisis situation, many national governments have become the protagonists in the adoption of difficult measures severely restricting their citizens fundamental rights to the detriment of the powers usually entrusted to the national parliaments. This article examines the normative response of the 27 European Union Member States during the “first wave” of the Covid-19 pandemic, a period that runs from the declaration of a pandemic (March 2020) to mid-June 2020. The intention of the authors was to describe the legal and constitutional mechanisms activated in order to contain the pandemic, focusing on the role of national parliaments in the management of the crisis. This article explores also the degree to which national parliaments have been involved and could exercise parliamentary oversight over the normative measures used by the executive to contain the pandemic in the EU-27.


Maria Diaz Crego
Maria Diaza Crego is a Policy Analyst, European Parliament Research Service, European Parliament.

Silvia Kotanidis
Silvia Kotanidis is a Policy Analyst, European Parliament Research Service, European Parliament. The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) is the internal research service and think tank of the European Parliament. This research paper derives from a paper originally published on 4 December 2020 by the EPRS as background material to assist Members and staff of the European Parliament in their parliamentary work. The content of the document is the sole responsibility of its authors and any opinions expressed therein should not be taken to represent an official position of the European Parliament.
Article

Legislative Scrutiny in Times of Emergency

A Case Study of Australian Parliaments

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 4 2020
Keywords legislative scrutiny, sunset clauses, emergency laws, virtual parliament, parliamentary committee, trust
Authors Hon Kate Doust MLC and Mr Sam Hastings
AbstractAuthor's information

    Citizens’ trust in Australian governments and parliaments has fallen in recent years, yet trust is critical for governments to do their job effectively and attack challenging issues. The coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity for governments and parliaments to bridge the gap between citizens’ expectations and parliamentary and government performance and therefore rebuild trust. In doing so, parliaments need to balance their desire for speedy action with proportionate measures and mechanisms for review.
    This article examines the scrutiny of primary legislation by the parliaments of Western Australia the Commonwealth of Australia during the initial stages of the pandemic, through the application of principles from the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry into fast-track legislation. The data shows that both parliaments had severely abridged time to consider, debate and consult on bills during the initial stages of the emergency. The parliaments took a different approach to address this issue. The Western Australian Parliament supported the inclusion of sunset clauses into most of the bills whereas the Commonwealth Parliament did not. The Commonwealth Parliament’s scrutiny committees considered and commented on the bills post-enactment. The Western Australian Parliament does not have mechanisms for the technical scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees. This divergence of approach is noteworthy as the Commonwealth Parliament has information about the impact and technical quality of bills but no power to address the issues identified. The Western Australian Parliament has little information about the impact and technical quality of the Acts but will likely have the opportunity to reconsider the laws if they are sought to be extended.


Hon Kate Doust MLC
Hon Kate Doust MLC is the President of the Legislative Council of Western Australia.

Mr Sam Hastings
Mr Sam Hastings is the Clerk Assistant (House) of the Legislative Council of Western Australia. The authors acknowledge the research assistance provided by Ms. Renae Jewell and Mr. Chris Hunt.
Article

Increased Uptake of Surveillance Technologies During COVID-19

Implications for Democracies in the Global South

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 4 2020
Keywords surveillance technology, platform economy, COVID-19, democracy, global south, belt and road initiative
Authors Alex Read
AbstractAuthor's information

    Social change and introduction of new technologies have historically followed crises such as pandemics, and COVID-19 has seen increasing public tracking through the use of digital surveillance technology. While surveillance technology is a key tool for enhancing virus preparedness and reducing societal risks, the speed of uptake is likely to raise ethical questions where citizens are monitored and personal data is collected. COVID-19 has occurred during a period of democratic decline, and the predominant surveillance-based business model of the ‘platform economy’, together with the development and export of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered surveillance tools, carries particular risks for democratic development in the countries of the Global South. Increased use of surveillance technology has implications for human rights and can undermine the individual privacy required for democracies to flourish. Responses to these threats must come from new regulatory regimes and innovations within democracies and a renewed international approach to the threats across democracies of the Global North and South.


Alex Read
Alex Read, democratic governance consultant for organisations including UNDP, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
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