Super election year, Monitoring, Future visions – Newsletter #13


Cathleen Berger


Hello and welcome to issue No. 13 of Upgrade Democracy News!

Usually, when writing the editorial for this newsletter, I would pick one topic as a red thread to share insights into the team’s work. Right now, though, there is so much happening that I’d like to present you with a well-balanced menu providing inspiration to everyone’s taste:

Starters: Sector topics, media and news literacy, and interventions against hate speech

There is a new blog post on our website that illustrates the consequences of gendered disinformation – kudos to our intern Theresa for her first post! In addition, Charlotte has been working with renown experts for the past year and we’re finally ready to share their systemic overview of possible interventions to help cope and effectively counter hate speech. Meanwhile, Julia has been talking with over 30 people in Saxony these last couple of weeks to prepare the launch of our pilot project focused on media and news literacy – we can’t wait to share all details in early November!

Main courses: Elections, election observation, and monitoring of online discourse

In 2024, there will be elections in over 70 countries, but this year too, critical elections are happening in various places. First, elections in Slovakia, which we contextualised on our LinkedIn profile, then the state elections in Hesse and Bavaria. The latter faced insightful, REAL-TIME scrutiny from the amazing colleagues from the SPARTA project of the University of the Bundeswehr. This serves as a pilot project, which will no doubt enrich our capabilities and insights into the upcoming federal elections in Germany in 2025. Next, our team as well as the fantastic colleagues over at Democracy Reporting International were attentively following elections in Poland. The DRI Digital Democracy Monitor helped surface the role of topics such as LBTQI+, migration, and the climate crisis in the run up to the elections. And, since monitoring online discourse is vitally important if we want to understand when, where, and how digital discourse is undermined and attacked, the Data Knowledge Hub must be part of today’s menu. We’ve added another three chapters looking at legal aspects, ethical frameworks and different opportunities for researchers to access data on platforms. In other words, this one provides material for the very hungry.

Desserts: New perspectives and visions for the future

Our international research of good practices to strengthen democracies and counter disinformation is fast moving forward and we’ll be sharing insights and content championing partners and initiatives from the Asia-Pacific as well as Latin America over the next few weeks – be sure to follow our blog posts and Instagram channel. Moreover, we’re embarking on a journey to explore the future. Meet the inspiring experts developing scenarios for the futures with us on our new category “Visions.”

Aperitif: All links and reading recommendations can be found below.

We hope you enjoy Upgrade Democracy News and, as always, welcome any feedback and ideas for things to include or change.


Blog: Wie Gendered Disinformation Frauen aus digitalen Diskursen drängt

Our intern Theresa anaylses how and with which consequences gendered disinformation poisons digital discourse [DE].

Blog: Free Speech, Governments, Platforms: It’s Complicated
In this post, Georgia explores the delicate balancing act between free speech and necessary regulation.

Hate Speech Interventions Map
In her latest post, Charlotte shares the results of a comprehensive research project with a slate of renown experts on how to effectively counter hate speech:


Meet our amazing cohort of Foresight Fellows and stay tuned for a series of future scenarios exploring the state of our digital public in 2035:

Recommended read and/or watch

  • I recently had the opportunity to share my ideas on the environmental impact of digital technologies in an interview with Regina Steffens for the German-language Spiegel-Podcast “Klimabericht”.
  • Democracy Reporting International’s Digital Democracy Monitor vividly illustrates how and on which topics the digital discourse in Poland developed during the recent election period.
  • Find more information about the SPARTA project and their real-time monitoring efforts during the Bavarian elections here.
  • Want to monitor online discourse yourself? How-to-guides, ethical and legal standards are all available on our Data Knowledge Hub for Monitoring Online Discourse.

Cathleen Berger

Cathleen Berger


Cathleen Berger’s professional experience spans across sectors: academia, government, non-profit, corporate, and start-up. Her work and research focus on the intersection of digital technologies, sustainability, and social impact. She currently works with the Bertelsmann Stiftung as Co-Lead for Upgrade Democracy as well as the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2024 and Senior Expert on future technologies and sustainability. In addition, she occasionally advises and works with social purpose companies and organisations on their climate and social impact strategies.

Previously, she directed the B Corporation certification process of a pre-seed climate tech start-up, launched and headed up Mozilla’s environmental sustainability programme, worked within the International Cyber Policy Coordination Staff at the German Foreign Office, as a consultant with Global Partners Digital, a research assistant at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), and a visiting lecturer at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena.

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