Professor Mary Anne Franks (right)
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced a $50,000 investment to support research by Professor Mary Anne Franks, professor of Law and Dean’s Distinguished Scholar at the University of Miami School of Law, on creating a culture of “fearless speech” in the digital age.
“I am thrilled to have the Knight Foundation’s support in writing my second book, Fearless Speech, and developing the Fearless Speech Campaign for my nonprofit, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative,” said Franks, who is the president and legislative and tech policy director of CCRI. “The goal of my research is to encourage a culture that prioritizes the fearless speech of the vulnerable over the reckless speech of the privileged. It is my hope that this project will help unleash the potential of the Internet to truly revolutionize freedom of expression for all, rather than favor the prejudiced and powerful.”
Franks’ project is one of 20 projects that received $1.7 million from Knight to focus on research to inform the public conversation on current issues in technology policy, including free expression online, and the scale and power of digital platforms. These grants, which come amid growing debate over technology’s role in our democracy, will help ensure that society is equipped to make evidence-based decisions on how to govern and manage the now-digital — and increasingly privately-owned — public square.
The awards mark the culmination of Knight’s $50 million commitment to catalyze new research to inform how technology is transforming our democracy. Knight’s overall investment has led to the establishment of new research centers at five universities around the country, and is supporting a range of ongoing research at a growing network of institutions of higher learning, independent research organizations and policy think tanks focused on understanding technology’s impact on democracy and helping to inform solutions.
"As we proceed from a pandemic to an election, everything about technology is getting bigger: the companies, their role in our lives, and the debate about how to manage what we say and do online,” said Sam Gill, Knight’s senior vice president and chief program officer. “From COVID-related misinformation to labeled posts by the president, it's clear that we need to chart a path forward about how to best protect democratic values in a digital age."