US institutions given multi-million dollar backing for internet policy research

22 American universities, think tanks and advocacy organisations will share the $3.5m investment, as they look to inform decision-makers

Twenty-two American universities, think tanks and advocacy organisations have received funding to boost independent research into the issues surrounding internet policy.

Areas set to be investigated include the propagation of online disinformation, social media companies’ content moderation, and antitrust enforcement in big tech.

The findings, intended for near-term application, will be offered to lawmakers and other decision-makers as they oversee the impact of technology on society and help shape the future of the online world.

How we answer the questions of today will shape the democracy of tomorrow 
 – Sam Gill, Knight Foundation VP

The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice, for example, are both holding ongoing investigations into the competition and business practices of several tech companies, while Google and Facebook are being investigated for anti-competitive behaviour by a lengthy list of state attorney generals.

The funding, totalling more than $3.5 million, is being put forward by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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“These issues are moving faster than we can evaluate and analyse them,” said Knight Foundation VP, Sam Gill. “We need to close the knowledge gap, if our society is going to make smart decisions about how to ensure technology strengthens democracy rather than weakening it.”

Institutions receiving support were chosen via an open funding opportunity to expand research on the norms, rights and responsibilities governing digital services. The process is ongoing.

“[We are] supporting this research to ensure that a diverse range of views and a body of real evidence informs urgent policy debates,” added Gill. “How we answer the questions of today will shape the American democracy of tomorrow.”

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