Knight invests $6 million in research on the future of US technology policy

August 1, 2019

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Three think tanks doing leading-edge work on issues of market concentration in the tech industry and liability for online content will receive funding as part of Knight’s $50 million commitment

Contact: Lauren Dickinson, Communications Officer, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305.908.2694, [email protected]

MIAMI — Aug. 1, 2019 — Three nonprofit policy institutes will expand their research into the future of U.S. technology policy, including potential approaches for regulating the tech sector, with $6 million in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Knight’s investment will support nonpartisan, independent research on several issues at the forefront of national tech policy debates, including questions about the market concentration of major social media and digital services providers and growing concern about how those digital platforms manage content.

Congressional legislators from both sides of the aisle have raised pressing questions about the tech sector in recent weeks. Both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress have challenged the broad immunity from liability enjoyed by social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter. The U.S. House of Representatives has held hearings on questions of market power and antitrust, and in the Senate, tech companies have been called to testify about their use of algorithms and content moderation. Last week, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into potential anticompetitive behavior of major internet companies. The next day, the Federal Trade Commission imposed sweeping reforms on Facebook regarding how it will manage privacy protection for its consumers.

The three organizations receiving funding are:

  • The Center for Democracy & Technology ($3 million): To support research on the future of digital discourse, with a focus on how online platforms moderate content and how technology impacts our democracy.
  • Open Markets Institute – Center for Liberty and Journalism ($2 million): To research the impact of corporate concentration by internet companies on journalism and media, and how the negative effects of concentration might be addressed.
  • R Street Institute ($1 million): To study and explore a multi-stakeholder approach to the management of online content that balances concerns of consumers with those of corporations, and to improve the government's technology policymaking.

“We’re in the middle of the largest debate of our time on how to enjoy the benefits of technology while mitigating the increasingly apparent costs,” said Sam Gill, vice president for communities and impact at Knight Foundation. “Yet so far the discussion is more heat than light. These organizations combine an unflinching willingness to have an opinion with a deep commitment to evidence and independence.”

Read: Knight's Sam Gill shares about our new investments on Medium

The investments are part of Knight’s recent overarching $50 million commitment to support research on how technology is transforming our democracy and the way in which people are informed in the digital age. Nearly $39 million of this commitment will directly support cross-disciplinary research at 11 American universities and research institutions, while $5 million will be distributed through an open funding opportunity focused on research into the rules and norms governing our use of digital technology.

Across the investment portfolio is a common set of questions about how digital technology has changed the way information is produced, distributed and consumed — and the new approaches needed to ensure a healthy democracy in the digital age.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.

[APPENDIX]

THINK TANKS’ LEADERSHIP AND MEDIA CONTACTS

The Center for Democracy & Technology

Led by:

  • Nuala O’Connor, president & CEO

            Media contact: Brian Wesolowski & Elizabeth Seeger, [email protected], 202-407-8811

Open Markets Institute – Center for Liberty and Journalism

Led by:

  • Barry Lynn, executive director
  • Sarah Miller, deputy director

            Media contact: Stella Roque, [email protected]

R Street Institute

Led by:

  • Kevin Kosar, vice-president, policy
  • Charles Duan, director, technology & innovation
  • Tony Mills, associate vice president, policy

            Media contact: Ann Phelan, [email protected]


Image credit: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay