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. We wish to fund scholarly inquiry and novel approaches that will strengthen our democracy as the digital age progresses.
Please see below for additional detail on the opportunity and application instructions.
In recent years, significant questions have surfaced about the basic norms and values undergirding the regulation of the internet, with a focus on 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, Knight Foundation has begun to explore these issues through a range of grant-making aimed at the sea change in how our society is informed in the digital age.*
We seek to support efforts that advance research – both theoretical and empirical – on topics related to governance and the rights and responsibilities of individuals, commercial interests, non-governmental 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 – in terms of self-regulation, consumer behavior and government regulation – including new regulatory theories and specific regulatory proposals. Our interest comprises laws and rules, jurisdictional questions, regulatory infrastructures—within government, specific commercial concerns and civil society (consumers and non-governmental actors), and regulatory enforcement.
Types of Activities Funded
We will consider proposals to support:
Research and Pedagogy
- Course relief to enable faculty research
- Publication development, such as special journal issues or volumes
- Collaborative efforts of researchers from multiple institutions
- Research assistant(s)
- Symposia, workshops or other convenings
- Legal clinics or other innovative pedagogy that engages students in these topics
- Data acquisition
- New full-time faculty or researchers
- Visiting professorships
- Post-doctoral fellows
- Visiting fellows (for non-faculty or mid-career scholars from industry/government)
How to Apply
We invite letters of interest of no more than three pages that address the following, as applicable:
- What is your research objective?
- Why is it significant in understanding the future of internet governance?
- What activities do you seek to have funded?
- Budget (if multiyear, include a complete budget by year)
- Short bios of the principal investigator(s), with emphasis on previous ad rem research
Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. This call will remain open until otherwise indicated. Please monitor kf.org/internetrfp for updates.
Please send all questions and letters of interest to John Sands at [email protected].
About Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.
*Examples include the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia, which seeks to safeguard free expression in the shifting landscape of the digital age; the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund of Harvard and MIT, aimed at bolstering the use of artificial intelligence for the public good; and our recent Request for Proposals on the Future of an Informed Society.