A nonprofit with deep ties to the newspaper industry is investing $50 million into research on technology's impact on democracy — from countering online disinformation to how companies such as Facebook and YouTube impact public opinion.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced this morning that it would fund new research at 11 universities in the hopes of ushering in a new academic field of study. The organization, which was founded by the owners of newspapers such as the Miami Herald, has been trying to stay on top of trends that are changing journalism — and one of the most pressing issues right now is how fake news and information is undermining what people can trust online.
“It’s our modern-day Gutenberg moment. Even as we embrace the benefits of the Internet, we need to grapple with its effect on our democracy,” said Alberto Ibargüen, the president and chief executive of the Knight Foundation, in a news release. “We need more research, data and insights to do it effectively and avoid unintended consequences. These investments make that possible.”
More rigorous research into the trends could ultimately help everyone from policymakers, media outlets and tech companies tackle the challenges unique to the digital age.
“What we don’t have strangely enough is a really dispassionate collection of data — long-term data — about what happens in a democratic republic when you don’t have consistently reliable information,” Ibargüen said in an interview.
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Source: The Washington Post