Knight announces open call to fund new research into combatting disinformation in communities of color – Knight Foundation
Learning and Impact

Knight announces open call to fund new research into combatting disinformation in communities of color

The past several years have demonstrated that disinformation targeting communities of color have far-reaching implications for everything from elections to America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Academic studies, journalistic accounts and Congressional committees have found that false information online disproportionately targets historically marginalized communities. As an organization that seeks to foster informed and engaged communities, Knight Foundation recognizes the corrosive effect this has on our communities and our democracy. Today, we’re announcing an effort to surface new insights that can inform effective interventions that will mitigate the impact of these activities in the future.

The 2020 election saw unprecedented circulation of false information online, much of it targeting communities of color in key states. In particular, Spanish-language media and Spanish-speaking social media users were targeted with mis/disinformation in the form of conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods about the election. Meanwhile, other coordinated manipulation campaigns played into racial and ethnic anxieties, with vaccine- and pandemic-related falsehoods threatening the health of our fellow citizens and undermining the country’s recovery from COVID-19. As the pandemic fight continues, and the 2022 elections approach, these trends threaten to repeat themselves. 

To combat these activities and develop viable solutions, Knight is seeking proposals for research that can lead to effective interventions that help fight disinformation campaigns targeting communities of color. We’re inviting researchers, scholars and journalists from around the country to submit their ideas for projects up to $175,000 by Sept. 15. We’re seeking submissions from a wide range of organizations, from research institutions to think tanks, to community nonprofits and news organizations. We especially welcome submissions from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders-serving institutions, ethnic media organizations and early career scholars. Those selected for funding will be announced in early 2022.

Since 2019, Knight has committed more than $50 million to support research and scholarship to better understand how technology is transforming our democracy and to help ensure society is equipped to make evidence-based decisions on how to govern and manage the now-digital public square. To help advance research on a broader set of issues including online content moderation, mis- and disinformation online, freedom of expression across digital platforms and liability for content posted online, Knight also announced today that it’s providing new funding to support work at the Berkman Klein Center For Internet and Society at Harvard University, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and Lincoln Network.

When communities of color are targeted with disinformation online, it threatens individuals, communities and our democracy. This open call will catalyze fresh thinking that can enable civil society, journalists and social media companies to be more proactive in the years ahead.

To apply for our open call for research proposals, please visit this site.

Paul Cheung is director of journalism and technology innovation, and John Sands is director of Learning and Impact at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.