Research

Project on Democracy and the Internet

 

The Project on Democracy and the Internet seeks to promote research, convenings, and courses that  engage with the new challenges technologies pose to democracy in the digital age.

 

In partnership with

            

 

The Internet and social media are having a profound impact on democracy in the United States and around the world.  New communication platforms allow established political actors and those outside the establishment to speak like never before in an unmediated voice to the citizenry. The same technology that gives voice to the previously voiceless, however, empowers foreign actors seeking to undermine democracy, trolls who silence journalists and minority groups through threats and hate speech, and ”bots” that attempt to manipulate search engines and flood social media.  Concerns about viral deception, anonymity, echo chambers, and platform information monopolies pose new challenges for democracy in the digital age.  

Objectives

  • Developing new, authoritative knowledge about how the internet is affecting democracy.
  • Establishing a needed new field of study around the internet that brings together technologists and social scientists.
  • Convening key stakeholders to respond to the challenges the internet is posing to the basic mechanisms of democracy.
  • Approach

    This project is a multifaceted research program featuring several elements:

    • Several discrete research projects. Examples include: a comparative analysis of how countries manage information integrity, the role of internet platform companies as “media companies,” and research into how algorithms and machine learning affect the flow of information to voters. See Projects for a full list.
    • Significant white papers, edited volumes and conferences associated with each area of research intended to inform and bring together researchers from across disciplines, as well as practitioners from industry and other sectors.
    • Planning toward a larger, permanent center focused on the intersection of the internet and democracy.

Partnering

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. For the first time, it will provide an official umbrella to a related body of work that brings together the Center for Democracy Development and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (School of Humanities and Sciences) , the Global Digital Policy Incubator, and individual scholars and students from Stanford Law School, the Graduate School of Business, and the Stanford Departments of Engineering, Political Science, and Communication.

This project additionally benefits from several key assets:

  • Distinguished Affiliates  The Principal investigators for this project are Nate Persily (James B. McClatchy Professor of Law), and Francis Fukuyama (Director of the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute).  The list of affiliated faculty, however, extends to five departments in the University.

See all PDI affiliated faculty here.

  • Proximity to Silicon Valley: The major internet companies are a driving force behind the trends implicated in this work.  They also serve as repositories for the data and knowledge base needed to examine the impact of the Internet on democracy. The work from this project will benefit from existing relationships with the companies that serve as the new information intermediaries and the platforms for the new public square for modern democracy.
  • Funding partners: this project is supported by The Knight Foundation, with additional support from the Stanford CyberInitaitive, funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Research is additionally funded by the Carnegie Foundation, as well as the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences and the Stanford Law School.

Special thanks to the Knight Foundation for their support.