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Dr. Joan Donovan is Director of the Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project at the Shorenstein Center. Dr. Donovan leads the field in examining internet and technology studies, online extremism, media manipulation, and disinformation campaigns.

Dr. Donovan's research and teaching interests are focused on media manipulation, effects of disinformation campaigns, and adversarial media movements. This fall, she will be teaching a graduate-level course on Media Manipulation and Disinformation Campaigns (DPI-622) with a focus on how social movements, political parties, governments, corporations, and other networked groups engage in active efforts to shape media narratives and disrupt social institutions.

Dr. Donovan's research can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Social Media + SocietyJournal of Contemporary Ethnography (JCE)Information, Communication & SocietySocial Studies of Science, and Online Information Review. Her contributions can also be found in the books, Data Science Landscape: Towards Research Standards and Protocols and Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives. Dr. Donovan's research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and more.

Prior to joining Harvard Kennedy School, Dr. Donovan was the Research Lead for Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, where she led a large team of researchers studying efforts to manipulate sociotechnical systems for political gain. She continues to hold an affiliate appointment with Data & Society.

Dr. Donovan received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Science Studies from the University of California San Diego, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, where she studied white supremacists’ use of DNA ancestry tests, social movements, and technology.

The Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project, led by Dr. Donovan, aims to understand how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. The project conducts research, develops tools, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns. The  project is creating a research platform called the Global Media Manipulation Case Book (GMMCB), which will include 100 case studies to advance our knowledge of how misinformation travels across the web and platforms. 


Community

Data & Society

Source Hacking: Media Manipulation in Practice

Data & Society report uses case studies to illustrate four main techniques of source hacking

Sep 4, 2019
Buzzfeed News

With This Statement, I Give Notice That Instagram Owns Your Soul

People posting a pseudo-legal declaration may believe they're in a two-way dialogue with the company. The opposite is true.

Aug 23, 2019
Journal of Design and Science

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Bot

An exploration of what happens when politically motivated humans impersonate vulnerable people or populations online to exploit their voices, positionality and power.

Aug 7, 2019
Shorenstein Center

Dr. Joan Donovan, Shorenstein Center expert, comments on El Paso, 8chan, and what’s next

BKC affiliate responds to El Paso shooting, use of manifestos as a tactic, and explains how extremists manipulate the media to control public conversation

Aug 6, 2019
NBC News

El Paso shooter wasn't a 'lone wolf' — and his so-called online 'manifesto' proves why

While we often think about those who commit mass violence as acting individually, we must reckon with the fact that these extremists are never alone online.

Aug 5, 2019
Rolling Stone

A Jeffrey Epstein-Clinton Conspiracy Theory Was Trending — And That’s a Problem

A report that the Epstein was injured in jail dredged up a conspiracy theory about the Clintons — and thanks to a hashtag, the baseless rumor likely has a whole lot of new…

Jul 25, 2019
Journalist's Resource

10 tips for covering white supremacy and far-right extremists

Q&A with Journalist’s Resource offers advice for journalists

Jul 22, 2019
The Washington Post

How Trump put himself in charge of Twitter’s decency standards

Twitter has ceded responsibility for governing its own platform to its most prolific and controversial user, says BKC affiliate Joan Donovan.

Jul 19, 2019
The New York Times

How White Nationalists See What They Want to See in DNA Tests

What happens when white supremacists on the hate site Stormfront learn that they’re not as white as they thought? Two researchers investigated.

Jul 12, 2019
The Atlantic

How Hate Groups’ Secret Sound System Works

White supremacists exploit the weaknesses in the social-media ecosystem as Facebook and Google struggle to keep up.

Mar 17, 2019