The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation seeks to support fundamental research that addresses issues of rules, norms, and governance of the internet and digital platforms. Recent research, policy debates, and public controversies have highlighted the absence of uniform consensus on the norms, rights, and responsibilities that should govern digital services, in particular social media.
The convergence of these questions has drawn attention to less-developed issues in law and research that demand further scrutiny from a range of perspectives. Some of these issues include harms associated with online content, censorship, free speech, data ownership, antitrust and competition, private rights of action, and effective regulatory approaches when confronted with quickly-evolving technologies.
Long one of the largest independent funders of journalism, the Knight Foundation has begun to explore these issues through a range of grantmaking activities aimed at the sea change in how society is informed in the digital age.
To that end, the foundation seeks to support efforts that advance research – both theoretical and empirical – on topics related to governance and the rights and responsibilities of individuals, commercial interests, nongovernmental organizations, and government in the digital era. Topics of interest include but are not limited to:
Content — The rights and responsibilities of users of services, as well as the rights and responsibilities of social media companies and digital service providers, with regard to content. This includes issues of content moderation, content liability, algorithmic content generation and optimization, as well as actual or potential harms and benefits associated with digital/platform services.
Market — How to understand the digital services and social media marketplaces, including theories of competition, empirical work on the nature of these markets, and issues of market concentration and power.
Regulation — Regulatory response, including new regulatory theories and specific regulatory proposals. The foundation’s interest comprises laws and rules; jurisdictional questions regulatory infrastructures within government, specific commercial concerns, and civil society (consumers and nongovernmental actors); and regulatory enforcement.
The foundation will consider proposals in the areas of research and pedagogy (including course relief to enable faculty research, publication development, collaborative research efforts, research assistant(s), symposia, workshops or other convenings, legal clinics or other innovative pedagogy that engages students in these topics, and data acquisition); faculty; and fellowships (postdoctoral fellows, visiting fellows).
The foundation invites Letters of Interest of no more than three pages that address the following: What is the research objective? Why is it significant in understanding the future of Internet governance? What activities are to be funded? What is the budget (if multiyear, include a complete budget by year)? Who is the principal investigator(s), with emphasis on previous ad rem research.
Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, and the call will remain open until otherwise indicated.
Send all questions and letters of interest to John Sands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information, see the John S. and James L. Knight website.