At the risk of understatement: 2016 has been a year of major political surprises. From Brexit to Trump and the rise of populist parties across Europe, we’ve seen stark reminders of the power of online media and new communication platforms in influencing people’s opinions. Technology has made it easier than ever before to spread messages but also to disseminate incorrect information: have we reached a “post-factual” era, where political messages are controlled by emotion and everyone has their own version of the facts?

 

 

This question was the starting point of a lively discussion yesterday evening at the annual EACD Forum event. Guest speaker Matthew Karnitschnig (@MKarnitschnig), chief Europe correspondent at trans-Atlantic political-journalism organization Politico, gave a half-humorous, half-terrifying overview of Donald Trump's Twitter strategy and the tortured relationship between the US's ‘alt-right’ and the mainstream media (as perfectly encapsulated on the very same day by Trump's bizarre off-on again meeting with the New York Times). But despite the statistics – during the US presidential election campaign, alt-right media platform the drudge report received 1.5 billion page views per month – Matthew's message was that the alt-right media needs mainstream media, if only to amplify its messages, and so the alt-right media likely won't replace mainstream media.

 

 

Following Mathew, moderator Oliver Herrgesell (@Ohgs), Turner Broadcasting International communications SVP and EACD Future of Media Working group coordinator, introduced the evening’s panel: Dr. Edna Ayme-Yahil (@EdnaAyme), head of communications at EIT Digital and EACD board member, Georg Altrogge (@GeorgAltrogge), co-founder and CEO of Meedia, Ana Adi (@ana_adi), professor of public relations at Quadriga University of Applied Sciences and political communications consultant Johannes Hillje (@JHillje).

 

 

Between them, the panel grappled with such thorny issues as the culpability of traditional media in surrendering the online conversation to extremist voices, whether or not mainstream political parties take social media sufficiently seriously, how social bots flood the online conversation with false news, the role Facebook algorithms play in perpetuating our own insular echo-chamber bubbles, and what Europe’s communications community can or should do to ensure Marine Le Pen doesn’t repeat Trump’s success?

 

 

More content form the event will be appearing here shortly: in the meantime, we’ll leave you with the thought expressed by more than one participant at the Forum – it’s up to communicators to help inform the interpretation of core values and make sure that standards of decency, respect and equality are not transgressed by any politician from any political persuasion without severe questioning.

 

Missed out on attending? Take a look at a video review of the 2016 EACD Forum below