2019-2020 Assembly Student Projects
THE 2020 ASSEMBLY STUDENT FELLOWSHIP COHORT came together to study and explore disinformation on online platforms from a cybersecurity perspective. Over the course of the academic year, student fellows learned from experts in the field, participated in team building activities, and scoped project prototypes, sketches, and provocations to specific aspects of the spread and consumption of disinformation. Assembly Student Fellows conducted their work independently, with light advisory guidance from faculty advisors and staff. Read more below about the four student projects developed during Assembly 2019-2020.
WTF is CDA is an interactive tool about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), one of the most influential laws that shaped the Internet as we know it today. Developed by students at Harvard College, the Graduate School of Design, the Kennedy School, and the Law School, the explainer provides a history of the law’s genesis and judicial interpretations, and gives users the opportunity to engage with important issues related to platform moderation efforts, particularly focusing on mis- and disinformation, by posing a series of questions around hypothetical situations involving controversial content on social media. The answers reveal how different approaches to content moderation in each instance reflect different policy values. The project also directs readers to more authoritative, in-depth resources examining the history, interpretation, and challenges of 230. This independent student project is in beta, and the team is actively gathering feedback to improve the tool.
TEAM POLITICS focused on the experiences of underrepresented minority politicians and candidates online. Developed by students studying at the Business School, the Law School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the group explored the intersection of disinformation and harassment in political campaigns and its disproportionate impact on minority candidates. Disinformation that targets these candidates often mobilizes racial stereotypes and gendered language, alongside false information. Over the course of its research, the group learned that while social media is critical to running a successful grassroots campaign, platform content policies often fail to adequately protect minority candidates, many of whom feel unprepared to campaign online and are uncertain about what protections are afforded to them.
Read the team’s blog post.
THE YOUTH AND DISINFORMATION LITERACY PROJECT conducted research for an infographic to improve media literacy among first time voters in the 2020 US elections. The project, which was developed by students at the College, the Kennedy School, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, focused on four major topics: why disinformation is created, how disinformation is spread, real-world examples of inauthentic online content, and how to identify false information online. The team hopes their infographic can help increase students’ awareness of false content on the internet and encourage further conversation.
Read the team's blog post.
A TAXONOMY OF COVID-19 DISINFORMATION, developed by three students at the Medical School, the College, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, maps COVID-19 disinformation and mitigation efforts. The team conducted preliminary data collection and analysis, and developed two infographics: one that explores the targets of COVID-19 related disinformation and the motivations behind its spread, and one that explores common interventions by governments, academics, platforms, and journalists to mitigate its impact. The group hopes its efforts will contribute to the growing body of work around better understanding and pushing back against this infodemic.