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Mark Bradley Field Sue Roberts

Abstract

One of the great issues for governments and related organisations everywhere is that of staying close to their citizens and maintaining accountability through the provision of accurate, trustworthy and complete information. The size of an organisation can often impede open and timely information delivery, and the complexity of government structures can cause frustration and suspicion. Given the size and complexity of the EU, it could be considered reasonable to suppose that the EU would have institutional barriers to the integrity of the information provided to the public. Indeed, criticism of the EU is frequently framed in terms of its supposed lack of accountability and the claim that it is out of touch with its citizens (Gehrke 2019). To counter this, the EU makes increasing use of online systems to render its working practices visible to the public to facilitate scrutiny and improve transparency. However, these online systems have frequently been introduced without reliable and consistent quality assurance (QA) processes to ensure the accuracy of the information in the public domain in order to promote the institutional trust that the EU seeks. Furthermore, the EU ministerial declaration of 2005 argues for promoting ‘public confidence’ in information provision for e-government. Confidence and trust are inextricably linked, as this article shows. Drawing on 22 qualitative interviews with EU officials and representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), this article demonstrates that low QA is in fact a deliberate policy, with the European Commission openly acknowledging its reliance on public control to police the information it provides through its online systems. This creates a transparency paradox by allowing CSOs to take advantage of the weakness in information QA to weaponise their information to attack the EU. This is a key consideration, not only for the EU but for all governments and non-governmental organisations across the world. A perceived weakness in information provision which subverts the building of trust, particularly political trust, increases the scope for individual or state actors to exploit the internet to weaken and undermine citizen participation. This article tackles the issue through primary research to demonstrate the dangers of weaponised information in the modern political arena.

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Article Keywords

Transparency, Accountability, e-government, Civil society

Section
Research Articles
Article Copyright
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