Public Policy Forum President & CEO Edward Greenspon and recently appointed Max Bell School of Public Policy professor Taylor Owen announced the launch of a multi-year project to analyze and respond to the increasing amounts of disinformation and hate in the digital public sphere.

The Digital Democracy Project (DDP) will commission research and journalism to gain a greater understanding of how disinformation is growing in the digital ecosystem. It will monitor digital and social media in real time, coordinate with international research and policy development projects, and develop public policy responses to counter these threats to democratic institutions and social cohesion.

This work flows from PPF’s earlier studies, including The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age and Democracy Divided: Countering Disinformation and Hate in the Digital Public Sphere. Mr. Greenspon and Professor Owen worked on both reports.

The Digital Democracy Project will initially focus on studying and communicating the impact of misinformation in the lead-up to the October 2019 federal election.

“We have learned through our previous research that this country lacks adequate understanding of what’s being put through our media ecosystem by those seeking to divide and disorient Canadians for their own ideological, commercial or geo-political reasons,” Mr. Greenspon said. “This project is designed to expose these attempts and determine how best to counter them and propose long-term solutions.”

“Threats to the integrity of our public sphere and the undermining of elections are serious threats to democracy,” said Prof. Owen, who is taking up an appointment in January 2019 at McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy, where he will hold the Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics and Communications.

“Further research and active monitoring is necessary to better understand and ultimately counter these threats. The Digital Democracy Project will ensure that media organizations, academic researchers and policymakers have the knowledge and the policy responses needed to protect Canadian democratic institutions and to as best as possible ensure social cohesion.”

“Prof. Owen’s work with the Digital Democracy Project will ensure our school plays an important role in addressing these challenges and we are delighted to be collaborating with the Public Policy Forum on such a timely and vital issue for Canadian democracy,” said Chris Ragan, Director of the Max Bell School of Public Policy.