A protester holding up a pro-democracy sign in Brussels, Belgium. | Photo: Randy Colas/Unsplash

Internal Threats to EU’s External Democracy Support in Times of a Pandemic – Can the New EU Council Conclusions on Democracy still Kick-off?

In the course of the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, governments in Europe and across the world have called for states of emergency and restricted individual freedoms of their citizens in order to #FlattenTheCurve. While many citizens support the governmental initiatives, concerns about their implications on the state of democracy are growing stronger. Some fear that the coronavirus crisis will end in a crisis of democracy. Worldwide, democratic standards have been challenged long before the pandemic started. First analyses show that the current health crisis speeds this tendency up. In particular, the erosion of civic freedoms for the sake of handling the global health crisis appears to accelerate. While most governmental measures seem to be appropriate, others provide the impression that the coronavirus crisis is used to further erode internal checks and balances. Just recently, the European Union (EU) has adopted new Council Conclusions on Democracy aiming to address this global tendency. While they mainly address the external dimension, internal threats to democracy are not to be neglected. What value has such a strategy in times of a global pandemic?


Does your algorithm care for copyrights, or for data protection regulation?
Does your algorithm care for copyrights, or for data protection regulation? | Photo: Markus Spiske | Free use

Web Scraping Social Media: Pitfalls of Copyright and Data Protection Law

The increasing popularity of web scraping methods does not come without a plethora of legal questions. In our first article, we analyzed the growing popularity of web scraping methods and how the Terms of Service of the social media platforms relate to this issue. In this article we discuss further questions of copyright law and data protection law regarding web scraping. The German legal situation in copyright law is discussed as an example here.


Cyril Ramaphosa, South African President and Chairperson of the African Union visits citizens under quarantine who had just been repatriated from Wuhan, China, following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Cyril Ramaphosa, South African President and Chairperson of the African Union, visits citizens under quarantine. | Photo: GovernmentZA | CC BY-ND 2.0

An Island of Internationalism: The African Union’s Fight Against Corona

Although corona is a global health threat, immediate reactions to contain its spread have mainly followed a logic of national sovereignty, threatening many of the hard-won achievements of decades of international cooperation. In this situation, the African Union (AU) is a rare case of internationalism: it has played an important role in providing coordination, expertise and technical support to its member states, engaging in advocacy, and mobilizing resources. It is imperative to applaud, but more so to support the AU in continuing to play its vital role as one of the few islands of internationalism these days.


In this Sunday, March 22, 2020, photo supplied by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, military trucks load onto an Il-76 cargo plane in Chkalovsky military airport outside Moscow, Russia. Nine hulking Il-76 cargo planes are being loaded at the Chkalovsky military airport in Moscow as Russia prepares to send medical personnel and supplies to Italy to help the country's efforts against the coronavirus. The mission include eight mobile medical teams along with medical equipment and aerosol disinfection trucks is to begin Sunday, one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the aid in a telephone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose country has confirmed more than 53,000 coronavirus cases and over 4,800 deaths. (Alexei Yereshko, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP) |
Military trucks load medical supplies onto an Il-76 cargo plane in Chkalovsky military airport outside Moscow, Russia. (Alexei Yereshko, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

From Russia with Love?! Putin and the Pandemic

For Russia the novel SARS-CoV-2 still seems to be the best of a bad lot, as the country still reports relatively low numbers of infected people. But, if coupled with other pre-existing problems (power transfer and economic hardships), the pandemic could exacerbate an already unstable situation and lead to new unpredictable foreign policy moves. Russia’s strategy in times of SARS-CoV-2 is most likely going to be threefold: further working on its global image by sending aid and offering assistance; shifting its focus from the near abroad to great power politics; and doubling up the ongoing information warfare if the first two do not bring immediate results.


The empty Piazza San Marco in Venice | Photo: Kaveman743 | CC BY-NC 2.0
The empty Piazza San Marco in Venice | Photo: Kaveman743 | CC BY-NC 2.0

COVID-19 as a Threat to Civic Spaces Around the World

As countries across the globe are desperately trying to control the COVID-19 pandemic, a rapidly increasing number of governments have started to impose severe restrictions on core civic freedoms. Although restrictions are currently necessary to save lives and protect health care from overburdening, these emergency measures must be proportional and strictly limited in time. It is crucial to monitor how restrictions are implemented to prevent governments from using the current crisis to justify new constraints on civic spaces, which have already have been shrinking in many places during the last 15 years.


Far-right "fashwave" memes aim to make neo-Nazism accessible and appealing through contemporary aesthetics | Photo: Youtube

The Visual Culture of Far-Right Terrorism

The recent wave of far-right terrorist attacks challenges academic knowledge on extremist violence and demands a new perspective. Rather than acting on behalf of political organizations, most of the perpetrators promote digital hate communities that predominantly interact via visual language such as memes. These images, which are often-humorous, aim to accustom users to violence and make neo-Nazism accessible and appealing through modern aesthetics and pop-cultural references. Hence, to fully understand contemporary far-right terrorism and its underlying worldviews, we need to systematically analyse visual mobilisation and persuasion strategies. This blog post makes the case for a visual culture perspective and transdisciplinary visual analysis to examine how far-right actors radicalise sympathisers in loosely organised online networks.


Das Foto zeigt die Webseite "Coronavirus - a soldier from Allah" auf einem Smartphone.
Extremists of all stripes reinterpret the Coronavirus pandemic to serve their ideologies. | Photo: PRIF

The Coronavirus as a Means to an End: Extremist Reinterpretations of the Pandemic

Various aspects of society and everyday life have become affected by the clampdown on the Coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions enforced to prevent it from spreading. While the spread of COVID-19 continues to be fought and researched under extreme pressure, many uncertainties remain regarding its origin and the social, political and economic consequences. These uncertainties are easily exploited by extremists such as right-wing and Islamist extremists. The spread of the Coronavirus is thus accompanied by the propagation of extremists’ discourses. Within a short period of time, they reach thousands of people – not only but especially via social media. 


"Dangerous speech" can incite feelings of threat or fear
"Dangerous speech" can incite feelings of threat or fear | Photo: Stuart Anthony | CC BY-NC 2.0

What Makes Far-Right Rhetoric so Dangerous?

After a series of right-wing terrorist acts in Germany, the role of far-right rhetoric in inciting violence is much debated. Forms of hate speech in particular have caught a lot of attention in this debate. Drawing on the concept of dangerous speech, this article illuminates why narratives of imperilment are more critical for understanding far-right violence than open hatred. By constructing myths of victimhood, they make violent action seem necessary – even if violence is not proposed explicitly.


Peace Begins with Us

In 2020 the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) celebrates its 50th anniversary. Founded in October 1970, PRIF today is one of the leading peace research institutes in Europe. Our motto for our anniversary is ambiguous: “Peace begins with us”. Who is meant by “us”?


Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev prior to the cabinet meeting in Moscow on 15 January 2020 (Photo: picture alliance/AP Photo).

Lost in Transition? Putin’s Strategy for 2024

Speculations about “Транзит“ or transfer of power have circulated in the Russian mass media since Vladimir Putin got elected as the President of the Russian Federation for the fourth time in March 2018. The turbulent political events of the first weeks of 2020 shed some light on Putin’s strategy for his future. In case he chooses to leave the president’s chair, he will hardly be able to fully control the handover of power and will likely face some unintended consequences.