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Funding & Policy

Institutions to Tackle Internet Governance and Policy Issues

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Twenty-two universities, think tanks and advocacy organizations are delving into policy issues around technology and the internet, funded by more than $3.5 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The research will cover topics such as content moderation by social media companies, antitrust enforcement in big tech and the proliferation of disinformation online, according to a news announcement. The goal: to "help meet the urgent needs of federal lawmakers and other decision-makers as they shape the future of the internet, as the impact of technology on our society and democracy becomes ever more significant."

"These issues are moving faster than we can evaluate and analyze them. 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," said Sam Gill, vice president at Knight Foundation, in a statement. "Knight is investing in and supporting this research to ensure that a diverse range of views and a body of real evidence informs urgent policy debates. How we answer the questions of today will shape the American democracy of tomorrow."

"The nation is facing a crisis in internet governance along multiple dimensions," commented Ramsi Woodcock, an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky College of Law with a secondary appointment in the Department of Management in the Gatton College of Business and Economics, who is leading one of the Knight-funded research projects. "We have privacy problems, ranging from data breaches to exploitation of data on users by Google and Facebook to inform targeted advertising, personalized pricing and more. We have the problem of how to balance free speech on the internet with regulation of hate speech, attempts to influence our elections by foreign governments, and the like. We have the problem of how to fund journalism in an age in which the advertising revenues newspapers once relied upon are now being captured by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. And then we have problems of market concentration and monopoly …. The internet has created vast economic benefits in a number of industries but has also disrupted old ways in which benefits were distributed within those industries. The solution to many problems of internet governance today lies in finding ways to structure the internet to distribute those benefits more equitably. I am delighted the Knight Foundation has chosen to support this emerging approach to internet governance."

The full list of grant recipients is:

The institutions were selected through an ongoing open funding opportunity focused on expanding "fundamental research on the norms, rights and responsibilities that govern digital services, in particular, social media." For more information, visit the Knight Foundation site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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