Knight Foundation to invest $5M in research to combat misinformation

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The Knight Foundation will invest $5 million in research projects aimed at addressing online misinformation with a focus on the impact on communities of color, the non-profit organization said Wednesday. 

The investment includes a $1.5 million open call for proposals for research that “can lead to effective interventions to mitigate the effects of racialized disinformation or targeted manipulation of communities of color,” according to the Knight Foundation announcement. 

“Demand is only growing for fresh thinking about our democracy’s digital information challenges,” John Sands, Knight’s director of learning and impact, said in the announcement. “As more of our lives are lived online, independent research is increasingly needed to drive actionable insights and equitable solutions.”

Advocacy groups have long been warning about the dangers of the spread of disinformation on social media and its disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Progressive groups have called for greater action from social media companies to tackle misinformation, especially dangerous false information about the 2020 presidential election and the coronavirus pandemic. 

The surgeon general last week released an advisory that in part pushed tech companies to take action against misinformation about COVID-19, calling it an “urgent threat.” 

The Knight Foundation’s open call invites researchers across the country to submit ideas for projects of up to $175,000 by Sept. 15. The organization said it “especially welcomes” submissions from historically Black Colleges and Universities, educational institutions that serve Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, ethnic media organizations and early career scholars. 

The investment also includes $2 million to support a three-year institute at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, $1 million to support a Technology Policy Program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and $1 million to support technology policy research at the Policy Hacker Fellowship at the Lincoln Network.

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