Project on Democracy and the Internet

About

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Challenge

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.

Our Work

The Project 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 will create and share 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. 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) , 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 will also benefit 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 Project on Democracy and the Internet aims to catalyze this change through:

Research

Creating a cross-disciplinary community at Stanford by bringing together recognized scholars on these issues and supporting research needed to address the adverse impact of technology on liberal democracies as well as the roles of private sector and government entities in protecting information integrity and strengthening democratic processes.

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Education

Educating the next generation of scholars, technologists, and policy makers and developing, testing, and proactively sharing curriculum and knowledge with relevant audiences with the aim to inform policies and business decisions that may potentially impact democratic institutions. 

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Convening

Driving knowledge transfer between the private, public, and academic sectors by leveraging Stanford’s reputation as a trusted higher-education research institution to inform policy changes and corporate decisions, while building partnerships with other academic centers and organizations to build the global field of research. 

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Principal Investigators

The Project on Democracy and the Internet is hosted at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) in partnership with the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at the Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) and the Stanford Law School. The project is led by Co-PIs Nate Persily, James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, Frank Fukuyama, Director of CDDRL and Senior Fellow at FSI, and PACS Faculty Co-Director and Professor of Political Science, Rob Reich.