Balkin Receives Funding from Knight Foundation to Study Digital Public Sphere

Professor Jack Balkin

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a commitment of nearly $50 million in research to better understand how technology is transforming our democracy and the way we receive and engage with information. Amidst a growing debate over technology’s role in our democracy, these investments will help ensure society is equipped to make evidence-based decisions on how to govern and manage the now-digital public square.

Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment and Director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, will receive $2 million from the Knight Foundation to launch a new ISP initiative. Balkin’s Project on Governing the Digital Public Sphere will produce legal and policy recommendations to improve the functioning of the digital public sphere. Looking at external and internal governance, the initiative will study topics from antitrust and privacy to content moderation and digital propaganda.

Knight’s investment will fund new, cross-disciplinary research at 11 American universities and research institutions, including the creation of five new centers of study — each reflecting different approaches to understanding the future of democracy in a digital age. In addition, Knight has opened a new funding opportunity for policy and legal research addressing major, ongoing debates about the rules that should govern social media and technology companies.

The other Yale recipient is Fiona Scott Morton, the Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics, who has received an investment to study competition and antitrust in the digital economy. The funding will support the launch and development of the Thurman Arnold Project at the Yale School of Management.

The selected research centers and projects were chosen through an open request for proposals process launched last year, which elicited more than 100 applications. The institutions are both public and private, located across the country, and represent a range of academic disciplines. All share a common goal: identifying how society can adapt to the ways in which digital technology has revolutionized the dissemination and consumption of information.