Digital Platforms & Democracy

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 Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal has raised questions about user control, privacy, and the need for regulation of social media platforms. The world’s leading technology firms – most of which are U.S. companies – today operate in a largely unregulated environment. While this American disinclination to industry regulation is premised on a longstanding and well-intentioned preference to let the industry innovate and to allow the open market to efficiently serve consumers, some things have gotten out of hand. New thinking is required for approaches to regulation of digital platforms. The Digital Platforms & Democracy Project at the Shorenstein Center aims to address these issues through academic research and expert analysis.

The Digital Platforms & Democracy research fellows include:

Dipayan Ghosh, PhD, former tech policy advisor in the Obama White House and former privacy and public policy advisor at Facebook.

Tom Wheeler, former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Philip Verveer, leading communications and anti-trust lawyer, former Senior Counsel to the FCC.

Gene Kimmelman, President & CEO of Public Knowledge, consumer protection advocate.

For a taste of what the Digital Platforms & Democracy team is working on, check out this video interview with Dipayan Gosh.

Research and Publications

Big Tech and Democracy: The Critical Role of Congress
April 23, 2019
By Staff and Fellows of the Shorenstein Center’s Platform Accountability Project and the Belfer Center’s Technology and Public Purpose Project

Platform Accountability: An Interim Measure
April 15, 2019
By Philip Verveer, Visiting Fellow, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

Platform Accountability and Contemporary Competition Law: Practical Considerations
November 20, 2018
By Philip Verveer, Visiting Fellow, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

The Fight Against Disinformation in the U.S.: A Landscape Analysis
October 24, 2018
By Heidi Legg, Director of Special Projects at the Shorenstein Center and Joe Kerwin, Harvard College Senior, Dunster House

The Root of the Matter: Data and Duty
November 1, 2018
By Tom Wheeler, Senior Research Fellow, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School. 31st Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 2013-2017

Digital Deceit II: A Policy Agenda to Fight Misinformation on the Internet
October 2, 2018
By Dipayan Gosh, Research Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and Ben Scott, Director of Policy & Advocacy, Omidyar Network

Time to Fix It: Developing Rules for Internet Capitalism
August 16, 2018
By Tom Wheeler, Senior Research Fellow, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School

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.