Technology and Social Change Research Project

The internet has opened vast new territory for global information warfare. During a breaking news event, social media users are inundated with a flurry of both verified and unverified information. Facts, rumors, and disinformation alike are spread via text, links, images and video, shared and reposted across major platforms. A wide range of media manipulators have learned to take advantage of the bursts of unverified information and heightened attention during these news cycles. The Technology and Social Change Research Project applies the theories and methods of open source intelligence and interdisciplinary scholarship to the problem of modeling media manipulation campaigns. This project will set a methodological standard for researching these contentious issues, while providing practical and ethical training for the fields of platform accountability, information and cybersecurity, as well as political polarization. Our goal is to rapidly build the field of Critical Internet Studies across industry, academia, civil society, and newsrooms through a series of intensive research seminars at universities, conferences, and online using a shared online research platform called The Global Media Manipulation Case Book (GMMCB), an encyclopedia of 100 or more media manipulation case studies.

Lead Researcher: Joan Donovan, PhD

Joan Donovan is the Director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, where she researches media manipulation, disinformation, and adversarial media movements that target journalists. She was previously the Research Lead for Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, which mapped how interest groups, governments, political operatives, corporations, and others use the internet and media to intentionally manipulate messages in order to disrupt social institutions.

Dr. Donovan completed her PhD in Sociology and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, where she studied white supremacists’ use of DNA ancestry tests, social movements, and technology.