My research has led me to appreciate the importance of effective, evidence.based policymaking on digital media in the public interest. To this end, I have engaged with international and national organizations and regulators to share the results of my research and inform policymaking on digital media, freedom of expression, and democracy.
I have worked closely with the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organization and brings together 46 member States, including all members of the European Union and the United Kingdom. In 2020-21, I served as Co-Rapporteur for the Committee of Experts on Freedom of Expression and Digital Technologies (MSI-DIG). As a result of the work of the Committee, in April 2022 the 46 Member States of the Council of Europe adopted the Recommendation CM/Rec(2022)13 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the impacts of digital technologies on freedom of expression, which I drafted together with Alexandra Borchardt and with input and support from all committee members. Here is an analysis that summarizes how our recommendations and discusses how they complement the EU Digital Services Act. The Committee also produced a Guidance note on best practices towards effective legal and procedural frameworks for self-regulatory and co-regulatory mechanisms of content moderation, to which I contributed input as a member.
In 2022-23 I am serving as Co-Rapporteur for the Committee of Experts on the Integrity of Online Information (MSI-INF). As part of the MSI-INF Committee, I am now working with my fellow Co-Rapporteurs Sophie Lecheler and Ronan Fahy, with input from all committee members, to develop a Guidance note on countering the spread of online mis- and disinformation through fact-checking and platform design solutions in a human rights compliant manner.
One of the key components of the Council of Europe Recommendation I helped draft is that independent researchers should be able to access high-quality, privacy-compliant data from digital platforms to conduct research on the implications of these platforms for freedom of expressions and other human rights. This is a complex endeavor and requires careful weighing of different rights and interests, as well as full compliance with data protection regulation and ethical principles. To make progress on these issues, I was fortunate to work with the European Digital Media Observatory’s Working Group on Platform-to-Researcher Data Access, which was led by Rebekah Tromble and included twelve representatives from academia, civil society, and several technology companies (Google, Meta, and Twitter). In 2022, the working group released a report, which includes a draft of a proposed Code of Conduct on access to platform data under Article 40 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
I also consulted with both branches of the UK Parliament. In 2019, I testified for the Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee of the UK House of Lords. In 2020, the committee issued a report , titled “Digital Technology and the Resurrection of Trust“, which incorporates substantial input I provided in my testimony on the key challenges and opportunities of digital media for democracy. In 2014, I submitted evidence for the UK House of Commons Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy and the Commission’s final report cited my contribution twice. In 2017, I worked with colleagues at the New Political Communication Unit to contribute to the “fake news” inquiry established by Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The evidence we submitted was published on the Committee’s website.
In 2018, I contributed to a literature review commissioned by the Hewlett Foundation to map the state of the art in research on the relationship between social media, polarization and disinformation. This document has been downloaded more than 18,000 times and has ranked among the 1% of most accessed documents on SSRN in various social science categories. I also co-authored two public reports with Andrew Chadwick as part of the activities of the Online Civic Culture Centre at Loughborough University: one on misinformation and disinformation on social media in the UK and one on Covid vaccines and online personal messaging.
Between 2015 and 2017, I served as chief analyst for Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press annual reports, assessing the state of press freedom in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Italy, assigning scores to each country, and authoring country reports. In 2018, Freedom House decided to pause the yearly updating of these reports.
I also engage closely with news organizations across the world to discuss key issues that relate to my research and policy work. Please see the Media section for a list of my media contributions and appearances.