Race, Media and Technology

The impacts of technology and mis-and disinformation in communities of color is under-researched and often misunderstood. The Shorenstein Center’s Technology and Social Change project team, along with researchers and faculty across the Center, is working to change that.

Led by Joan Donovan and Brandi Collins-Dexter, the current research focus investigates racialized disinformation and how it mobilizes white supremacists’ violence, disrupts the advocacy of civil society organizations, and saps the public’s ability to discern truth from disinformation. A term coined by Joan Donovan and Brandi Collins-Dexter, racialized disinformation refers to media manipulation campaigns that employ the strategic use of falsified racial or ethnic identities, and focus on race as a political wedge issue. This research will look at how racism animates disinformation campaigns and incites physical violence by emboldening far right groups, such as what happened in Kenosha, or draws together a broad coalition of networked factions that can influence institutions, like the one that attacked the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

The goal of this work is to research and develop methods and frameworks that analyze how media manipulation targeted towards and within communities of color is used to control public conversations, influence distribution of resources, derail democracy and disrupt societal institutions. The team approaches the research in a way that acknowledges the distinct histories, perspectives, positions within society of these communities.

More broadly, the Shorenstein Center is committed to incorporating a race and equity lens into all of its research and  activities. Too often, research and reporting is done in ahistorical ways, or with shallow historical context, focusing on the “how” and “what” but not the “why”, or without an eye towards systemic breakdowns and failures that drive myriad social and political consequences. The Shorenstein Center’s research projects, publications, events, and convenings are actively working to bring diverse voices to the forefront, and advocate for reporting and research that speaks for, from, and to communities of color and marginalized groups.

Read More

Canaries in the Coal Mine: COVID-19 Misinformation and Black Communities, Brandi Collins-Dexter, June 2020