Digital technologies are having a profound impact on democracy in the United States and around the world. New communication platforms that give voice to the previously voiceless also empower nefarious actors who seek to undermine democracy, silence journalists and minority groups, manipulate search engines, sow distrust, and more. Concerns about virality, deception, anonymity, echo chambers, and platform information monopolies pose new challenges for democracy in the digital age. Current research to understand these challenges and, on the basis of theory and evidence, craft solutions, remains nascent, fragmented, and incomplete. We are missing the strong knowledge base that is critical for policy makers, corporate leaders, and technologists to make decisions that protect and promote democracy in the digital age.
The Program on Democracy and the Internet (PDI) envisions digital technologies supporting rather than subverting democracy by maximizing the benefits and minimizing the threats through changes in policy, technology, and social and ethical technological norms. Through knowledge creation and education, and by leveraging the convening power of Stanford University, PDI creates and shares original empirical research around how digital technologies are impacting democracy to inform and educate decision-makers in the field, including the next generation of technologists, business leaders, and policymakers.
This effort is intended to bring together scholars from a diverse set of disciplines to study the challenges and opportunities the Internet poses for democracies. It provides an official umbrella to a related body of work that brings together the Stanford Cyber Policy Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (School of Humanities and Sciences), and individual scholars and students from Stanford Law School, the Graduate School of Business, and the Stanford Departments of Engineering, Political Science, and Communication. The work from this project also benefits from existing relationships with technology companies that serve as the new information intermediaries and the platforms for the new public square for modern democracy.
The Program on Democracy and the Internet aims to catalyze this change through:
The Program on Democracy and the Internet is hosted at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) in partnership with the Stanford Cyber Policy Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) and the Stanford Law School. The program is led by Co-PIs Nate Persily, James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, Frank Fukuyama, Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and Senior Fellow at FSI, and PACS Faculty Co-Director and Professor of Political Science, Rob Reich.