Democracy and Internet Governance

Digital platforms, while offering many benefits, also pose significant risks, including privacy concerns, misinformation, cyberbullying, and algorithmic biases. To address these issues, the Democracy and Internet Governance Initiative (DIGI) was launched in August 2021 as a collaborative effort between Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. 

DIGI’s first phase was co-chaired by Nancy Gibbs, Professor of Practice of Press, Politics and Public Policy, the Director of the Shorenstein Center, and former Editor-in-Chief of TIME, and the late Ash Carter, HKS Professor of Technology and Global Affairs, the former Director of the Belfer Center, and former U.S. Secretary of Defense.   

In July 2023, DIGI published the report, “Towards Digital Platforms and Public Purpose”, the culmination of research and findings from the first two years of the initiative. It promotes a new risk-centered approach to analyze and address the negative impacts of digital platforms. This approach is crystallized by proposing key dimensions that should be considered when assessing platform risk. The report also provides a clear ‘call-to-action’ to private sector actors and civil society to develop comprehensive industry standards and disclosure schemes. Ultimately, it aims to contribute to a more informed, cross-sector, and proactive approach to platform governance.

Moving forward, DIGI will assess governance practices, regulatory frameworks, and research priorities for government, industry, and civil society to mitigate risks and protect democracy.

In 2023 and 2024, DIGI’s research team, based at the Shorenstein Center, is producing a series of case studies and hosting convenings on mitigating online harms.  

As Nancy Gibbs emphasizes, “It is long past time we act – to protect individual rights and freedom; to protect our public goods and information ecosystem; and, ultimately, to protect democracy.” 

Visit to learn more.


Nancy Gibbs
Faculty PI

In Memoriam: 
Ash Carter, Co-Founding PI


Laura Manley
Program Director

Rehan Mirza
Research Associate

Kevin Wren
Research Associate

Digital Platforms Governance: Proposals Index

The Digital Platform Governance: Proposals Index (DPGP Index) is a database of primarily U.S.-centric proposals aimed at mitigating the harms and risks created by social media platforms. The goal of the DPGP Index is to provide a tool for researchers across the public, academic, and private sectors to query and search a variety of proposed solutions from experts all over the world, all in one location. 

Click here to learn more on the Belfer Center’s website >>



Case Study: Integrity or Influence? Facebook’s Governance Trade-offs in India and the Power of the Press

This case study examines Facebook’s failure to consistently enforce its community guidelines on hate speech and ‘violence and incitement’ in India due to internal trade-offs between integrity and political objectives. Using documents from, it highlights the role that media outlets supported by internal stakeholders at the company played in increasing transparency around governance processes, leading to internal change.

Case Study on Online Youth Harms – Project Daisy

In September 2021, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower, revealed “The Facebook Papers” to Congress and global news outlets. These disclosures, accompanied by eight whistleblower reports to the SEC and related studies, emphasized concerns about teenagers’ mental and physical health. This case study provides key insights from those studies into the product development process and internal decision making for “Project Daisy,” an internal initiative at Facebook and Instagram designed to reduce the public visibility of like counts on user posts.


Towards Digital Platforms and Public Purpose 

This paper serves as a summary report for the Democracy and Internet Governance Initiative. It delves into the rationale and components of a new risk-centered approach to analyze and address the negative impacts of digital platforms. Click here to read the DIGI Report>> 

The Blueprint for a New Government Agency 

This document presents a comprehensive blueprint for the establishment of a federal watchdog within the U.S. government, tasked with overseeing the digital services industry and enforcing standards as they are developed.  Read the Report >> 

The Drivers of Platform Harm 

This publication identifies the causal drivers of platform harms, based on research across academia, civil society, and industry. By identifying and aggregating these drivers, industry and government officials can focus their efforts on targeted interventions that counter the specific variables at issue. Read the Report >> 

To Break the Standstill of Social Media Governance, We Need Industry Standards 

This paper aims to address the standstill in progress related to mitigating harms resulting from digital platforms. By drawing on historical examples of industry betterments, it proposes that the most promising path forward is through a commitment to industry-wide voluntary standards setting. Read the Report >> 

Analyzing the Landscape of Solutions to Social Media’s Harms 

Key takeaways from the analysis of the “Digital Platform Governance: Proposals Index” across Congress, U.S. agencies and the private sector. Read the Key Takeaways >>