Platform Accountability & Misinformation

A handful of large digital platforms dominate the public space online. Every day, these platforms make decisions on a range of issues that affect the public sphere—including misinformation, hate speech, and digital advertising. Recent elections in the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany have surfaced the breadth and depth of information pollution, identifying it as a global threat to democracy. The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal has raised questions about user control, privacy, and the need for regulation of social media platforms.

The Shorenstein Center has expanded to include top academic experts on information pollution who do research as well as run online projects that track and stop the spread of misinformation in national elections around the globe. The Center also provides recommendations on how to address the negative effects of today’s digital platforms.

Information Disorder Project

First Draft is an initiative that joined the Shorenstein Center in October 2017.  It is a research and learning project, designed to help newsrooms, scholars, fact-checkers, and technology companies collaborate and encourage real-time verification of information on the social web. Now known as the Shorenstein Center’s Information Disorder Project, it will track and test different ways of responding to misleading, manipulated, and fabricated information. The project’s “IDLab” will focus on tracking mis- and disinformation for the 2018 midterm elections.

Researchers also train reporters and produce resources, such as a free online course on information verification. Our fellows are recognized internationally as leaders in the study of information pollution, with Claire Wardle recently testifying before a U.K. House of Commons committee.

Thank you to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies for supporting this project.


Transparency: What’s Gone Wrong with Social Media and What Can We Do About It?
March 27, 2018
By Wael Ghonim, Entrepreneurship Fellow, Fall 2017, and author of Revolution 2.0, and Jake Rashbass, Knox Fellow and Master in Public Policy student, Harvard Kennedy School

The Science of Fake News
Science, March 2018
by David M. J. Lazer, Matthew A. Baum, et al.

#DigitalDeceit: The Technologies Behind Precision Propaganda on the Internet
January 23, 2018
By Dipayan Ghosh, Shorenstein Fellow, and Ben Scott, Senior Advisor to the Open Technology Institute at New America. Co-published by the New America Foundation and the Shorenstein Center.

Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking
October 31, 2017
By Claire Wardle, PhD and Hossein Derakhshan, with research support from Anne Burns and Nic Dias

Black Pigeon Speaks: The Anatomy of the Worldview of an Alt-Right YouTuber
June 28, 2017
By Zack Exley, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (spring 2017), organizer, author and former senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign

Combating Fake News: An Agenda for Research and Action
May 2, 2017
Final report written by David Lazer, Matthew Baum, Nir Grinberg, Lisa Friedland, Kenneth Joseph, Will Hobbs, and Carolina Mattsson