Drawing on insights from Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan and Kyrgyzstan, this report connects the global decline of democracies to digital disruption and calls for strengthened regulatory frameworks along with its enforcement to prevent monied interests and hidden actors from influencing the outcome of democratic elections.

Democracies are experiencing a digital disruption. Disinformation is rife in elections, and there is interference by foreign countries as well; meanwhile, the public sphere is being undermined through virality (the premium on emotional appeals) and polarisation (e.g. through filter bubbles and echo chambers). These challenges are exacerbated by an erosion of political autonomy with the ‘choice architecture’ established by information technology companies, together with the substantial market (quasi-monopolistic) power of ‘big tech’ companies.

This report studies a neglected aspect of this disruption: the intersection between digital campaigning in elections, and political finance and its regulation. In so doing, it connects the digital disruption with an existential threat to democracies across the world―money in politics. Political finance poses the danger of not only ‘policy capture’ but also, in worse scenarios, state capture by monied interests.

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