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Cause and Retort of Populism:
A Formal Political Reasoning (Politics)
Without Distinct Ideology as a Response
to a Political-Moral Crisis – Turning
Laclau’s Theory into a Research Tool

ANDREJ ŠKOLKAY

Introduction
With rare exception, academic definitions or descriptions of populism are seldom clearly false or totally inaccurate. At the same time, there is scarcely a definition useful enough to theoretically explain the universal cause(s) of populism. Moreover, many studies on populism do not present a clear definition of the term. And furthermore, and relatedly, explanations as to the roots of populism, if they are present, markedly differ and often seem rather country-specific, speculative or missing entirely in many of these studies.
In this contribution we go beyond the current lack of academic consensus about the roots of populism and, in a sense, go back to the older theoretical explanation of populism’s universal origins. This, in turn, allows us to understand and suggest a proper method of how to research the causes of populism, as well as to suggest a proper definition of it. Finally, this allows us to come not only to a general, proper theoretical and empirical research approach on how to study populism but, in effect, also to a blueprint of how to tackle the emergence of populism.
Thus, this chapter argues that research on populism is often marked by failed attempts to find some tangible criteria or common features that, ultimately, should somehow unify the roots of all types of populism. At best, this effort results in frustration among researchers in their attempts to identify such universal causes either on a theoretical or a practical level. Of course, some common external features of populism have been identified, such as demonstrating the central position of the people, being critical of the elite, perceiving the people as a homogeneous entity, and proclaiming a serious crisis. In the view of Cas Mudde, the key distinction of populism is morality.3 This is, however, usually misunderstood normatively when populism is seen negatively. Instead, in our view, the morality of populism should be used as a research tool. Andor4 seems to be right in pointing out that the key reason for the failure to understand populism might be that the generalizations of populism theory offer a binary analysis, while the sociopolitical reality is multidimensional. Moreover, it is often unacknowledged that there must be something missing in this or any other definition of populism – namely, a specific, clearly identifiable ideology. Otherwise, it would not be populism but something else (e.g., fascism or communism). However, those features of populism as identified by Rooduijn and others are more of descriptive
nature and, as such, are further studied either at the rhetorical-discursive level, the ideational level and/or the political-strategic level. In fact, Rooduijn5 incorrectly separated the proclamation of a crisis from the core of populism and identified it as a consequence. Thus, even empirical comparative studies may bring inconsistent results. Yet the morality noted by Mudde and the proclamation of a crisis6, also defined by Rooduijn, actually fit together very well empirically as well as for the study of populism.
Be that as it may, there are in fact two overlapping groups of mainstream approaches to the research of populism: (a) a broad or thick ideology, a thin or narrowly understood ideology and a discourse or style and (b) the ideational approach, a political-strategic approach and a sociocultural approach. However, neither of these two broad groups of approaches offer a universally valid definition(s) for the roots of populism. Therefore, they are even less likely to be seen as trustworthy theoretical explanations
of the proper method of analysis, and, ultimately, of its “cure”.
Yet, it is significant for our study that Rooduijn7, who has identified three key common features of populism, came to only two suitable definitions of it. The first is attributed to Mudde, although it originally reflects Laclau’s concept of “an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated
into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups”. The second definition is “a Manichenean discourse”. In fact, even this definition can be seen as a reflection of Laclau’s original idea and not significantly different from the former. Importantly, Rooduijn (wrongly) noted that neither of these two definitions include all the elements of the lowest common denominator of populism. It is argued here that this is a fundamentally incorrect conclusion. That’s why we have presented only selections of both definitions that contain their definitional core and, at the same time, show inspiration from Laclau. It is acknowledged here that Laclau’s concept of populism is, paradoxically, the least often used concept of populism,
although it can also be seen as a bridge to understanding populism as ideology.8 In contrast, the promotion of populism to being seen as ideology, the ideational approach, is currently the most popular thread of populism studies.
With the aim of contributing to defining the roots of populism, this study accepts Ernesto Laclau’s late and slightly refined definition of both the roots and external features of populism as a formal political logic without predetermined ideological content. This definition is, although not acknowledged as such, in Rooduijn’s conclusions of his cited comparative study. Thus, Laclau’s original definition will be revised and updated and then compared with the criteria used to assess the quality and applicability
of concepts in the social sciences. It is argued here that this definition fulfils the key criteria used to assess that quality and applicability. Contrarywise, the current mainstream definitions of populism
mostly do not comply with the key criteria for this assessment. Thus, they cannot be seen as a universal explanation(s) of the roots of populism.

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Social Media Regulation from the Perspectives of National Media Regulatory Authorities in V4

Social Media Regulation from the Perspectives of National Media Regulatory Authorities in V4

ANDREJ ŠKOLKAY

ABSTRACT
The availability of studies which assess the implementation and performance of social media (SM) regulation within European Union countries is currently sub-optimal. Therefore, this study uses a problem-oriented approach, from a political-regulatory perspective, inspired by governance concepts, to investigate existing regulatory challenges within a specific region of Central and Eastern Europe. Based on interviews with the National Regulatory Authorities (NRA) experts from Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, and review of official documents, it provides insights on the regulatory policies and approaches enacted, proposed and used by NRAs. The study found that suggested approaches and opinions of the NRAs on possibilities of SM regulations show variety of challenges and that suggested regulatory approaches are often mutually contradictory. This study thus sets the stage for awareness creation among the key stakeholders that will facilitate further advancement of planned common social media regulatory protocols within the EU. Finally, this study sets a foundation for further regional or comparative studies on the regulation of social media.

This work has been supported by the European Union H2020 CSA Project COMPACT: From research to policy through raising awareness of the state of the art on social media and convergence, Project Number 762128, Grant Agreement 762128.

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An Exploratory Study of Global and Local Discourses on Social Media Regulation

An Exploratory Study of Global and Local Discourses on Social Media Regulation


Andrej Školkay


Abstract: This is a study of suggested approaches to social media regulation based on an explora-tory methodological approach. Its first aim is to provide an overview of the global and local debates and the main arguments and concerns, and second, to systematise this in order to construct taxon-omies. Despite its methodological limitations, the study provides new insights into this very rele-vant global and local policy debate. We found that there are trends in regulatory policymaking to-wards both innovative and radical approaches but also towards approaches of copying broadcast media regulation to the sphere of social media. In contrast, traditional self- and co-regulatory ap-proaches seem to have been, by and large, abandoned as the preferred regulatory approaches. The study discusses these regulatory approaches as presented in global and selected local, mostly Euro-pean and US discourses in three analytical groups based on the intensity of suggested regulatory intervention.

This study is a partial result of the Cooperation and Support Action Project H2020: Compact: From Research to Policy Through Raising Awareness of the State of the Art on Social Media and Convergence, Project Number 762128.

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Future Research on Conver gence and Social Media

Future Research on Conver gence and Social Media

Andrej Školkay
with contributions by Lukasz Porwol, Bissera Zankova, Klara Szalay, Ľubica Adamcová, Igor Daniš, Veronika Vighová and Adina Marincea

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
A large combination of the public journalistic academic opinions presented in the media started voicing suggestions on how to regulate social media, during 2018 and 2019 in EU countries and a few of the other non EU countries. The summary of these suggestions is is the key part of this report. These findings are presented in thematic blocs and special tables.

Furthermore, the report explores the political intentions and the legal activities that are being carried out to prevent the impact with the social harms across several countries of the world. Moreover, an overview of about 50 expert comme ntators and the politicians who are trying to approach the social media with an aim to control them internationally and globally has been presented.

This selection not only gives a sample of the discourses and overview of the issues globally, but it also broadens the traditional regulatory perspective that focuses on self, co, and a public (state) regulation. Furthermore, by definition, the legal discourses show a specifically narrow contribution to the regulatory debate. Thus, there is emerging a clear gl obal view regarding the steps taken towards the social media regulation and the agreement that the social media regulation is needed. For this challenging task, global or at least regional consensus is the best option. However, there is not a full consensu s either at the key issues that should be regulated or how the regulation of social media should look like. In contrast, a number of authoritative states simply pass the legislation regulating social media or some aspects of them, while for the blocs of th e states such as the EU, it is important to first strengthen the self regulation, including the fast checking process and explore these issues through detailed reports of the issues that are at stake.

The foremost policy issues discussed during a period in question appeared to be to fight against the fake news, and to protect the social media users against social harms. However, traditional focus to support the pluralistic legacy media and the journalism may not be sufficient strategy in mid term perspective. Neither support for the media education, critical thinking skills and digital competence, and the media literacy among young people may work in the short term. Yet the regulatory actions are urgently needed. Moreover, this approach is challenged on co nstitutional (if there is a free speech, why we should limit or ban even fake speech?) and definitional grounds (what is “fake news” and who should determine them).

While coregulation is slowly taking place, self regulation of social media seems to be an abandoned approach in many countries. As many regulatory attempts based on legacy media have documented, the traditional solutions are not workable either. In order to tackle the social media harms, in additional to standard, business type electronic/digi tal media regulation , economy based approaches towards social media regulation and technology based approaches are emerging in the discourse of modern regulations.

The results of media (mainly political, expert and journalistic) discourses on social media regulation suggest that in the current, rather specialised academic fields, including public regulatory policies specialists, there is a need for a more diverse and more innovative regulatory approaches.

With an aim to tackle the social media harms, t echnology based approaches may include methods such as the micro targeted advertising, prohibition of the data intensive collecting and even, under exceptional circumstances, shutting down of Facebook and other social media. Adjusting the sensitivity of th e algorithms, technology has allowed tracking platforms that promote hateful content. During the terrorist attacks broadcast online, these platforms can also speed up their monitoring and checking procedures. To flag the content for the immediate removal, temporary quarantines may be introduced that may be re examined later. They may be constitutionally problematic as compared to any other context than just during emergency.

Social media platforms might consider to ban the extensive sharing of the problematic content within atic content within their sites. The first solution has already been applied by Whatsapp, and later on at some other their sites. The first solution has already been applied by Whatsapp, and later on at some other platforms. platforms. The above described approach is calledThe above described approach is called algorithmalgorithm–incentives based approach. This incentives based approach. This approach ensures that the content has been remoapproach ensures that the content has been removed from the site automatically by creating a ved from the site automatically by creating a shared database of hateful content making it possible to ban it completely. shared database of hateful content making it possible to ban it completely. Lastly, by Lastly, by organizing the organizing the platform algorithms that isolates the contribution from the harmful actor’s, regular efforts can work platform algorithms that isolates the contribution from the harmful actor’s, regular efforts can work best.best.
It is mentioned that as there is already in operation some “propaganda filters” or spam filter for fake It is mentioned that as there is already in operation some “propaganda filters” or spam filter for fake news, and there also are tools for the parents that can help them regulate the behavior of their news, and there also are tools for the parents that can help them regulate the behavior of their children online. The deeper involvement of the AI is exchildren online. The deeper involvement of the AI is expected by Zuckerberg in five to ten years. In pected by Zuckerberg in five to ten years. In the meantime, some of the educators should target parents on how to use tools to protect their the meantime, some of the educators should target parents on how to use tools to protect their children and themselves too.children and themselves too.

A number of interesting economyeconomy–based approachesbased approaches are emerging. These approaches use mare emerging. These approaches use motivation otivation in order to motivate (reward) or sanction (punish) in the groups of either provider or the user in order to motivate (reward) or sanction (punish) in the groups of either provider or the user (platforms). To allow permission to use, in some countries governments outline policies for social (platforms). To allow permission to use, in some countries governments outline policies for social media platforms that charge citizens who use the somedia platforms that charge citizens who use the social media platforms and indemnification for the cial media platforms and indemnification for the social media data breachsocial media data breach..

Then there is an idea (“reward”) to come up with a new data dividend for the users for the use of their data. Some further suggest to authorize on the cartel legislations for the abtheir data. Some further suggest to authorize on the cartel legislations for the abuse market use market dominance or for gathering the information from the users, and there is the idea to break up the big dominance or for gathering the information from the users, and there is the idea to break up the big platforms. Finally, plans go further platforms. Finally, plans go further — to look for the nonto look for the non–commercial ownership to social media commercial ownership to social media platforms and the development of a European versplatforms and the development of a European version of Facebook. ion of Facebook.

A number of researches have suggested that by smearing on both the inducements–based economic based economic strategies, better outcomes could prevail. Generally,strategies, better outcomes could prevail. Generally, retribution is one of the most longretribution is one of the most long–lasting lasting features, but combining remuneration and casfeatures, but combining remuneration and castigation works besttigation works best. Moreover, to alter the three . Moreover, to alter the three components of the motivation (altruistic motivation, material selfcomponents of the motivation (altruistic motivation, material self–interest and social or selfinterest and social or self–image image concerns) can also change the making that is being attached to the anticoncerns) can also change the making that is being attached to the anti–social behavior and hence, social behavior and hence, leads leads in the reputational incentive to engage in it.in the reputational incentive to engage in it.

Within our sample, the most innovative stream of suggestions seems to focus on establishing iindependently owned servers and/or new publicly owned social media. There are also some ndependently owned servers and/or new publicly owned social media. There are also some interesting technical solutiinteresting technical solutions such as ons such as Noble´s proposal that future public platforms should set limits Noble´s proposal that future public platforms should set limits on how quickly content circulates. on how quickly content circulates. The other, traditional regulatory alternatives, seems to be focused The other, traditional regulatory alternatives, seems to be focused on breaking up the tech giants and/or to enforce antitrust, and/or copyright on breaking up the tech giants and/or to enforce antitrust, and/or copyright and/or data privacy and/or data privacy legislation. In general, there is an increasing tendency to enforce traditional lawlegislation. In general, there is an increasing tendency to enforce traditional law–based regulation for based regulation for social media, similar to television and radio regulation.social media, similar to television and radio regulation.

Policy and decision makers’ may follow regulatory approaches that are guand decision makers’ may follow regulatory approaches that are guided by values such as ided by values such as conceptual clarity, technical feasibility and considering adverse consequences. The specific conceptual clarity, technical feasibility and considering adverse consequences. The specific procedures based on these values should be conversed clearly, and lead to cumulative regulatory and procedures based on these values should be conversed clearly, and lead to cumulative regulatory and podiums operations transparency.podiums operations transparency. The regThe regulatory perspective of the human rights/legal perspective ulatory perspective of the human rights/legal perspective should include the appeal process (both of the platforms and users).should include the appeal process (both of the platforms and users).

This is partial deliverable of the H2020 CSA Project: COMPACT: From Research To Policy Through Raising Awareness of the State of the Art on Social Media and Convergence, Project Number 762128.

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Populist Political Movement Sme rodina – Boris Kollár

Populist Political Movement Sme rodina – Boris Kollár
(We Are a Family – Boris Kollár)

Andrej Školkay, Viera Žúborová


Abstract: This is an exploratory study of populist political movement Sme rodina – Boris Kollár (We Are a Family – Boris Kollár, since November 2019 only Sme rodina). The paper first locates this movement into a lose concept/sui generis family of political parties (the niche party), arguing in contrast to some typologies that this is primarily protest populist party presenting some niche issues, and only secondarily, an entrepreneurial party. The paper also answers the question why this party is considered as being populist by many political and non-political actors and analysts. The paper also suggests that there is actually non-existent, but assumed direct correlation between the support for this party and the decline in the standard of living, as sometimes presented in public discourse. In contrast, it is suggested here that there may be stronger links between relative poverty, feeling of being abandoned by political elites/parties, and low educational levels. Moreover, there played an important role previous knowledge (celebrity status) of the party leader who was often presented and discussed in tabloid media. For this reason, many young females voted for this party. The party also managed to raise a widely perceived problematic issue that was seen as not tackled sufficiently or at all by the previous governments and other competing political parties (the niche or salient issue).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 822590 (DEMOS Project)

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David and Goliath: An investigative journalist versus criminals protected by a partially captured state


David and Goliath: An investigative journalist versus criminals protected by a partially captured state

Andrej Školkay (with contributions by Joseph
Borg and Mary Anne Lauri)

In February 2018, Slovakia ended a long period without the murder of a media person when a young investigative journalist, Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, were slain in their home. While in previous instances of journalist disappearances the possibility of murder could not be precluded, lack of evidence makes this case the first. The killing in question, which is regarded as a turning point in the modern history of Slovakia, was the first since the country gained independence in 1993. It strongly suggests that unknown criminals were more afraid of a young, semi-independent investigative journalist than of law enforcement agencies in the country. According to an opinion poll carried out by the Focus agency in the latter part of 2018, the murder of Ján Kuciak and his fiancé was the most important national event of that year. Respondents could name a maximum of two events from a list of suggested items, or suggest ones they considered the most important. 1 Forty-five percent of respondents cited the murder as the key event in Slovakia in 2018. At the same time, half of the poll’s top ten most important events in 2018 were associated directly with the killing, or indirectly to its consequences. Leading ones included the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico (38 percent), public protests in city squares (21 percent), the resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák (18 percent), and the imprisonment of Marian Kočner, an infamous entrepreneur (18 percent). Additional political and state authority resignations continued throughout early 2019 (see Hanák, 2019) as new information was leaked from
police investigations. …

(page 68-86)

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A Comparison of Fake News Detecting and Fact-Checking AI Based Solutions

A Comparison of Fake News Detecting and Fact-Checking AI Based Solutions


Andrej Školkay
Juraj Filin

ABSTRACT
Scientifi c objective of this paper is to analyse how advanced are Artifi cial Intelligence (AI) tools to fight successfully information disorder. More specifi cally, this is an overview and ranking on existing tools based on AI in this specifi c area. Research method is comparative analytics. We compare the most developed and publicly available fake-news detecting and fact-checking AI based solutions (intelligent machines). The comparison is based on two key parameters: accuracy and comprehensiveness. Results and conclusions: Analyse show that a third of the examined AI systems are, in terms of comprehensiveness, in the top category, while the majority are in the medium category. As far as accuracy is concerned, very few AI machine developers are interested in providing further details about their products and functionalities for studies such as ours which raises suspicions about their actual performance. Surprisingly, one of the most discussed AI systems among EU leaders seems to actually belong to the least developed. Cognitive value: There is a need for a larger and more detailed study with involvement of AI specialists who would be able, and allowed, to test all available AI machines with their key features and functionalities.

This is partial deliverable of the H2020 CSA Project: COMPACT: From Research To Policy Through Raising Awareness of the State of the Art on Social Media and Convergence, Project Number 762128.

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What does the murder of journalist and follow-up events, tell us about freedom of the press and politics in a European country?

What does the murder of journalist and follow-up events, tell us about freedom of the press and politics in a European country?

ANDREJ ŠKOLKAY

Abstract: In February 2018, Slovakia´s long history of the absence of journalist murder case ended, when a young investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée were murdered in their home. While previous cases of the disappearance of journalists cannot be totally dissociated from the possibilities of murder, a lack of evidence qualified this case as the first. The cascade of events which followed further emphasise its importance. Prime Minister Robert Fico was forced to resign. Resignations of the Minister of Culture, almost immediately, and two Ministers of the Interior followed. …

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The Gorilla Case of Slovakia

A Case-Specific Instance of Media Capture:
the Gorilla Case of Slovakia

ANDREJ ŠKOLKAY


Abstract: This article discusses an instance of case-specific self-inflicted partial media capture, acknowledging the chilling effect of legislation consistent with partial state capture. In general, this case illustrates the ethical and legal dilemmas in the reporting of a specific type of large-scale corruption in the media, which involves the denial of all accusations by most sources and a controversial stand by state authorities and politicians on the issue, forcing the media to primarily report rumors or contradictory claims and denials (after controversial files regarding the corruption were made public anonymously on the internet) or desist from reporting altogether (before the files were made public on the internet, due to possible libel threats). The findings question the normative expectations expressed in democratic theory related to the role of the media as a watchdog, in the specific context of large-scale corruption in post-communist states. Moreover, this paper suggests the need to re-examine the methodological aspects of quantitative content analysis of media coverage of corruption. This paper has also attempted to update the emerging theory on media capture with the term partial case-specific media capture.

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The Gorilla Case in Slovakia

Partial state capture by a single oligarchic group: The Gorilla Case in Slovakia


ANDREJ ŠKOLKAY


Abstract: The article discusses the Gorilla case, an officially still-contested partial state capture by a single local oligarchic group, in line with the (partial) Elite Cartels corruption pattern in Slovakia. Due to the manner in which evidence, although considered unofficial, was made available, this case illustrates secret political and business processes during partial state capture. The initial absence of the case in public, political, and academic discourses, suggests that state capture can be present and operate undetected for a long time. This study also shows that in-depth analysis of the Gorilla case was avoided by both domestic and international political scientists, despite its paramount practical and theoretical importance. This, in turn, reflects a methodological capture of political science. Consequently, this article disentangles the complexities of the Gorilla case and lays down the foundation for further studies. Specifically, it highlights the need for more careful research, terminological precision in both theory-building and empirical findings on state and media capture based on case studies, as well as re-assessment of the methodology of political sciences used in these research areas.