German Marshall Fund Launches “Digital New Deal” Initiative to Create an Internet that Supports Democracy
The new yearlong campaign will develop action plans to make private and public sector reforms
Washington, DC (August 31, 2020)—The German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative today launches the “Digital New Deal,” a yearlong campaign that will bring together a broad community of policymakers, technical experts, and scholars to create an Internet that supports democracy by enacting specific reforms in five key areas.
“Today’s internet has made beating the COVID-19 pandemic and holding free and fair elections harder - while extremists are organizing online. It shouldn't be this way. We are launching the ‘Digital New Deal’ to do the hard work to create an Internet that supports democracies here at home and across the world,” said Karen Kornbluh, Director of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative.
“At the same time that real journalism is dying in many communities, garbage conspiracies are flooding people’s feeds,” said Ellen P. Goodman, Professor at Rutgers Law School and a non-resident senior fellow at GMF. “We need policy interventions and industry commitments to support the production, distribution and amplification of credible information.”
Unlike other efforts, the “Digital New Deal” does not rely solely on government interference in content decisions or leave the platforms unaccountable. Instead, it tackles dangerous incentives that have enabled malign domestic and foreign actors to manipulate users and harm democratic debate through: runaway algorithms, “Trojan horse” outlets masquerading as journalism, extremist and conspiracy-peddling groups and channels, dark money, and fraudulent accounts. This new campaign will address these harms while allowing free expression and promoting innovation.
Kornbluh added: “Too often, policy debates on the topic of online disinformation devolve into false binaries between doing nothing or allowing the government to act as the arbiter of truth. Building commonsense approaches to protecting democratic debate will take collaboration and interaction.”
To build an Internet that better supports democracy in the United States and across the globe, the “Digital New Deal” will develop action plans that:
Dampen the Noise of Disinformation
- Migrating Rights and Protections Online: Crack down on consumer fraud, dark money, harassment and extremism by updating offline laws and enforcement from civil rights, to consumer protection, privacy ,competition, national security, and campaign finance (like the Honest Ads Act) for the online environment.
- User Empowerment: Promoting policy and design principles that empower users against online manipulation and provide them greater flexibility in curating their online experiences.
Increase the Signal of Trustworthy Information
- “PBS of the Internet:” Creating an independent support mechanism (like taxing online ad revenue to support local journalism) and design principles for a civic information infrastructure, including public-interest journalism and fact-checking, voting information and emergency response, and universal access to data.
- Digital Integrity: Fostering the creation of incorruptible and secure digital identities for citizens, data, and media content to improve the adequacy and efficiency of digital services, support data portability, and increase trust in communications.
Promote Platform Accountability
- Aligning public and private incentives through platform data sharing, increased competition, data portability, accountable cross-platform codes of conduct, and risk-mitigation efforts.
- Prioritizing broadband as a key 21st century infrastructure like electricity and ensuring everyone can access high-quality services.
Facilitate International Cooperation
- Engaging with stakeholders around the world to build consensus around a set of strategies designed to promote digital democracy.
Since its launch, the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative has been tracking and analyzing the threats to democracy online. Earlier this year, Kornbluh and Goodman published the “Roadmap for Safeguarding Digital Democracy” a comprehensive report that lays out the arsenal of tactics bad actors are using online to undermine democracy, and proposes policy actions for a stronger, more transparent information ecosystem.
Additional work by GMF’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative includes:
- Bringing Truth to the Internet
- The First Amendment Opportunism of Digital Platforms
- The End of Techno-Utopianism
- Five Steps to Combat the Infodemic
- Tech Companies Must Fight White Supremacy, Regardless of Political Dangers
- Lessons from the Coronavirus for a New National Broadband Plan
- Public Safety and Disinformation
- How to Regulate the Internet
- Islamophobia and Gab
- Targeting Greta Thunberg
For more information about GMF’s technology work or to be connected to GMF experts, please respond directly to this email or reach out to [email protected].
The German Marshall Fund of the United States -- Washington office
[email protected] // 770-712-8104 (m)