The spread of disinformation is not a phenomenon of today’s time, but it has been exacerbated via its circulation through social media platforms, powered by AI and has become a critical challenge. It casts a shadow over the integrity of public debate and elections, undermining citizens’ trust in democratic institutions, while also negatively impacting on the accuracy and reliability of the information that feeds public opinion.

Disinformation by digital means can by its size and sophistication threaten the bases and essential elements of democracy, the institutions and processes of the state, and the cohesion and proper functioning of society. Digital disinformation is more illegitimate when originating abroad. No country or society is immune from such influence.


NB! The conference is postponed to May 2022 due to COVID situation in Estonia. 

You can find more info about the Estonian COVID situation here: Estonian Health Board and Statistical overview of the situation



The conference is co-organised with the support of: 


This conference is supported by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 857622 "ERA Chair in E-Governance and Digital Public Services – ECePS.

Disclaimer:  the event does not reflect the views of the European Commission or the Slovenian Presidency on content-related materials


The scope of the conference

The conference shall discuss the possibilities on how we can mitigate the problems of disinformation in the digital age, the divide in public opinion, filter bubbles, and how AI can be used to overcome the shortcomings, and provide solutions for this eminent issue endangering democracy itself. 

You can download invitations here: in English and in Russian


The tentative Programme

All times are in Eastern European Time / EET (= UTC +2).

Thursday, 25 November 2021:

arrival in Tartu (Estonia)

19.30: Welcome reception by Mayor of Tartu, Town hall


Friday, 26 November 2021:

the conference at the University of Tartu Delta Centre (details on venue see below)

9.00: Registration and welcome coffee

9.30: Official opening 

10.00-10.45 Keynote presentation by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia

 

10.45-11.00 Coffee break

 

11.00-12.30: Panel 1: Challenges by disinformation in the digital age

During this session, important global trends affecting election integrity will be explored. This includes the spread of disinformation and misinformation, the increase in threats and violence against journalists and media actors, and disruptions in electoral campaigning and communications. Misinformation and disinformation campaigns, the amplification and weaponization of hate speech, micro-targeting of voters, AI-driven campaigning and the use of automated messaging such as social bots and chatbots have been flagged as major challenges to electoral integrity and trust in democratic institutions. The onset of COVID-19 has brought new challenges to the management of elections worldwide, has highlighted the importance of responsible media and of access to verified information, and increased support for fact-checking initiatives. It has also led to calls for social media platforms to take faster action in dealing with political disinformation and hate speech.

 

Keynote presentation: Patrick Penninckx, Head of Department of Information Society, Council of Europe  

Panel discussion with EAP and EU civil society and government representatives:

Moderator: tbc

 

12.30-13.30: Lunch

 

13.30-15.00: Panel 2: Foreign factors in digital disinformation

Information manipulation has become a global phenomenon, serving as a prominent instrument in the strategic foreign policy toolkit of many governments around the world.

Foreign influence operations are by no means a new phenomenon. However, the global retreat of democracy, decline of political parties, the presence of financial scandals and recent technological developments have made it easier for authoritarian countries to quickly and maliciously interfere with democratic institutions and processes.

Disinformation exploits existing divisions and leads to further polarisation. Understanding the reasons behind disinformation campaigns helps us to stop them. In this session we will discuss mitigation measures and how disinformation in different forms of media, including social platforms, can be monitored and countered.

 

Keynote presentation: Armin Rabitsch, independent experts, University of Innsbruck, electionwatch.eu 

Panel discussion with EAP and EU civil society and government representatives

Moderator: Stefano Braghioli, University of Tartu

 

15.00-15.30: Coffee break

 

15.30-17.00: Panel 3: Challenges and opportunities of Internet voting

The negative effects of disinformation are felt in all aspects of the electoral process, from online political discussions to campaign strategy. As COVID-19 has demonstrated, the ability to govern, including voting, must be possible in times of social distancing. The need to be able to make decisions from a distance in a transparent and secure way has been rapidly accelerated. Furthermore, various convenience voting methods (such as advance voting and postal voting) have become topics of intense debate. The trials and pilots of this voting method that have been and are currently conducted in various countries focus on how to ensure election integrity with technological applications in a potentially hostile cyber environment while offering the most user convenience and low participation barriers to ensure uptake and usage. Therefore, it is crucial to combat disinformation and develop trustworthy internet voting technology and ensure trust among a heterogeneous voting population. This session will discuss the increased use of remote voting methods and interest in internet voting as the ultimate form of remote and convenience voting.

 

Keynote presentation: Liisa Past, Chief Information Security Officer, IT and Development Centre, Estonian Ministry of the Interior 

Panel discussion with EAP and EU civil society and government representatives:

Moderator: Mihkel Solvak, University of Tartu

  

17.00-17.30: Summary & Closing


19.00: Conference Dinner in the city centre



Saturday, 27 November 2021:

departure from Tartu

The Conference will be conducted in English and Russian, with simultaneous translation. 


Participation

Participation is free of charge. The participation includes the welcoming reception as well as the conference lunch and dinner.  As the number of participants is limited, only confirmed participants can attend.

For participation, please pre-register here: Registration form before October 31st, 2021. 

A limited number of speakers/participants (governmental, academic and civil society experts ) from the EU Eastern partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine) will be funded by the European Commission – requests to be made to the organiser when declaring interest to participate  in the conference by e-mail (in addition to the registration through the above-mentioned registration link) – including reasons and proof of expertise - to Ms. Elis Vollmer, University of Tartu: eap-edem@ut.ee 
In case that the above-mentioned funding option applies to you, interest in funding should be clearly mentioned in the declaration of interest to participate (the e-mail). 


Venue

The conference will be held at the University of Tartu Delta Centre in the heart of Tartu, one of the most modern centres of digital technology, analytical and economic thought in the Nordic region. Built in 2020, the Delta Centre is a modern academic and research centre of the University of Tartu, focusing on cooperation between the university, society and business.
The Delta Centre is located in the city centre of Tartu, by the river, within a short walking distance from the Old Town (5 minutes) and city centre hotels (8-12 minutes). The building can easily be reached by foot, car and bus. It is accessible for people with disabilities. All conference related events will take place on the same floor.


Access to Tartu

Tartu is Estonia’s second largest city with a population of 100,000. It is a green compact university town with a calm living and study environment, youthful people and a vibrant cultural life. Tartu City government has gained attention with its interest in implementing innovative technologies and investing in energy efficiency and climate change mitigation measures. The City of Tartu has also been effective in implementing the Smart City concept. It is closely collaborating with e-governance and Govtech entrepreneurs in building local public services.

Tartu can best accessed by air via Tallinn, capital of Estonia. Tallinn airport has good connections to major European cities. From Tallinn, Tartu is easily accessible by public transportation. The express bus to and from Tartu Bus Station stops at the Tallinn airport and departs every hour. The Tallinn train station ‘Ülemiste’ is easily reachable by tram from the airport, and trains to Tartu run every few hours. - In addition, an express bus between Riga and Tartu runs several times a day.


Accommodation

A number of hotels at different price ranges has been pre-booked for the conference participants at special rates. To book a room with this special rate, please note keyword "skytte" during your booking. This will apply after we have confirmed your registration to the conference. 

Hotel Lydia
 – 88 €/night/room (Single room) and 103 €/night/room (Double room)

Art Hotel Pallas – 52 €/night/room (Single room) and 56 €/night/room (Double room)

Hotel Dorpat – 51 €/night/room (Single room) and 58 €/night/room (Double room)


Covid-19 restrictions

All participants are required to inquire about and respect, Covid-related travel conditions / restrictions in their home countries and Estonia – as well as in the means of transport they are taking.
In Estonia, at present, “Public meetings and events are allowed, but participants must prove their safety against infection. This means that before participating in the event, participants must prove their infection safety by submitting a COVID-19 certificate of vaccination, passage or a previous negative test result. … Indoor events and activities with more participants can only be organised if the infection safety and monitoring thereof is ensured. In such cases, there may be up to 6,000 attendees indoors and up to 12,000 outdoors.” The local organisers will check the necessary certification on-site. More details at www.kriis.ee/en/restrictions-force-estonia-starting-march-11 .
On (incoming) foreign passengers, “Starting from June 21, 2021 entry into Estonia for travelling is allowed for persons who are asymptomatic, who are arriving from all third countries and have finished the course of vaccination against COVID-19, achieved the maximum protection after the last dose of the vaccine, and no more than one year has passed from it.” (more at www.kriis.ee/en/crossing-estonian-border and https://vm.ee/en/information-countries-and-self-isolation-requirements-passengers). As to vaccines, any EU-approved vaccine, as well as Sputnik are accepted.