Knight Foundation to invest $50 million to strengthen democracy in the digital age

With our growing dependence on digital technology threatening to undermine American democracy, the Miami-based Knight Foundation announced Monday it is giving nearly $50 million to universities, research centers, and individual scholars to bolster and develop new fields of research to combat this growing threat.

“We’re drowning in conventional wisdom when what we need is basic knowledge about the ways in which digital communication is altering the mechanisms of our democracy and the underlying fabric of our society,” wrote Sam Gill, who is the Knight Foundation’s vice president of communities and impact and was citing Robert Mueller’s investigation detailing how Russia used digital technology to attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The Knight Foundation will give $5 million each to the following universities that are creating cross-disciplinary research programs analyzing the impact that social media and big data are having on democracy and politics: Carnegie Mellon; George Washington; NYU; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the University of Washington.

The Foundation also is allocating nearly $14 million to support existing programs at the following five universities: Indiana University; Stanford; University of Texas at Austin; University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Yale, both the Thurmond Arnold Project and Project on Governing the Digital Public Sphere.

The remaining $11.3 million will go to policy and legal research about governance of social media and technology companies. Some of this money will be invested through an open-funding opportunity.

“Our investment is intended to support people and places that can help address the challenges of today, and that can continue to anticipate those challenges that we have not yet confronted or imagined,” Gil wrote.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.