The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced new investments to support research on the rules, norms and governance of the internet and digital platforms.
The $1.7 million in 20 new grants will focus on research to inform the national conversation on technology policy issues, including free expression online and the scale and power of digital platforms. These grants, to researchers representing a range of backgrounds and perspectives come amid growing debate over technology’s role in our democracy.
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Knight’s senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Sam Gill said, “As we proceed from a pandemic to an election, everything about technology is getting bigger: the companies, their role in our lives, and the debate about how to manage what we say and do online. From COVID-related misinformation to labeled posts by the president, it’s clear that we need to chart a path forward about how to best protect democratic values in a digital age.”
The awards mark the culmination of Knight’s $50 million commitment to catalyze new research to inform how technology is transforming our democracy. Knight’s overall investment has led to the establishment of new research centers at five universities around the country, and is supporting a range of ongoing research at a growing network of institutions of higher learning, independent research organizations and policy think tanks focused on understanding technology’s impact on democracy and helping to inform solutions.
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The new research investments include:
- American Action Forum, led by Jennifer Huddleston ($50,000): To support research and analysis on content liability policy proposals.
- American University, Tech, Law & Security Program, led by Jennifer Daskal, in partnership with German Marshall Fund ($50,000): To support policy research that addresses the roles of internet technology companies with respect to the regulation of speech online.
- Boston University School of Law, led by Danielle Citron and Jonathon Penney ($75,000): To support a study on the effects of laws, regulatory measures and digital platform policies on free speech of victims of online abuse.
- Copia Institute, led by Mike Masnick ($100,000): To support research and convenings on internet governance challenges, with a focus on competition, privacy, and content liability.
- Fordham University Law School, led by Olivier Sylvain ($50,000): To support Fordham University’s McGannon Center for Communication Research.
- Global Disinformation Index, led by Clare Melford and Dr. Danny Rogers, with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue ($30,000): To support research on how extremist groups use digital platforms to spread disinformation and violent rhetoric to finance their activities.
- Heritage Foundation, led by Klon Kitchen ($75,000): To support new research on addressing content moderation concerns on digital platforms at Heritage’s Center for Technology Policy.
Howard University, led by Ravi K. Perry ($250,000): To support a new research initiative on the impact of digital manipulation on Black communities.
- Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, led by Spencer Overton ($125,000): To support the expansion of technology policy research efforts at the Joint Center.
- Mercatus Center at George Mason University, led by Adam Thierer, Anne Hobson and Tyler Cowen ($150,000): To support the Mercatus Center for research on content moderation policy and intermediary liability, with a focus on soft law.
- California State University, Northridge, led by Farshad Ghodoosi ($10,000): To support research on the ways internet technology companies influence behaviors through interface design and language choices, and to analyze the policy and legal implications.
- Nebraska Governance and Technology Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, led by Gus Hurwitz ($250,000): To support research and programming at the interdisciplinary Nebraska Governance and Technology Center within the College of Law.
- Northeastern University School of Law, led by Ari Ezra Waldman ($25,000): To support research on the First Amendment, with a focus on power, speech and free expression on digital platforms.
- Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, led by Luigi Zingales ($50,000): To support research on competition policy in regard to internet technology companies.
- Technology Policy Institute, led by Scott Wallsten ($175,000): To support research on competition in zero-price markets, such as social media.
- University of Florida, led by Jasmine McNealy ($50,000): To support research on a new governance framework for data collected by digital platforms, smart devices, and smart city technologies.
- University of Georgia School of Law, led by Sonja West (School of Law), Jonathan Peters (Grady College of Journalism and Mass
- Communication), and Jason Anastasopoulos (School of Public and International Affairs) ($25,000): To support research on the application of First Amendment and due process principles to nongovernmental digital platforms and services.
- University of Miami Law School, led by Mary Anne Franks ($50,000): To support research on free speech doctrine in the age of digital platforms.
- University of Michigan, led by Sarita Schoenebeck and Lisa Nakamura ($25,000): To support research on the expansion of Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act to include a responsibility for digital platforms to reduce harms such as hate speech, harassment and discrimination, especially for marginalized populations.
- University of Oklahoma College of Law, led by Evelyn Aswad ($50,000): To support comparative research between the First Amendment and international human rights law’s protections for speech online.
Through these investments, Knight hopes to catalyze rigorous, independent research and insights that advance current debates in this space in support of effective solutions.
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