The Assembly: Disinformation Program brings together participants from academia, industry, government, and civil society from across disciplines to explore and make progress on disinformation in the digital public sphere.
Assembly explores disinformation from a range of perspectives, addressing the challenges and opportunities of public and private sector responses to disinformation and related problems, including within cybersecurity, platforms and internet governance, public health, politics, elections, democracy, and public discourse. The program brings together innovative approaches to cross-sectoral collaborations focused on the public interest and thoughtful interdisciplinary programming, with the Berkman Klein Center's history as a convener and long view on the problems and promise of the internet.
The Assembly: Disinformation Program
The program is organized around three tracks: the Assembly Forum, the Assembly Student Fellowship, and the Assembly Fellowship. The tracks are designed to bring together cohorts of experts, professionals, and students to better understand, and actively address, complex issues of disinformation.
- THE ASSEMBLY FORUM is a discussion forum for senior leadership from internet platforms, the government, the academic field, and civil society. The Forum serves as a means to make connections between experts working on different facets of disinformation, and hosts briefings and conversations conducted under the Chatham House Rule on specific challenges and solutions for disinformation. The Forum aims to elicit candid perspectives, surface points of agreement, make progress on hard problems, and offer recommendations where pertinent.
- THE ASSEMBLY STUDENT FELLOWSHIP brings together a cohort of Harvard students from a range of disciplines and schools. Student fellows participate in problem-oriented seminars led by Harvard faculty, practitioners, and experts, and engage in active discussion about disinformation problems in the public interest. Student fellow discussions will cover a range of topics including disinformation and election security, race and racism, public health, platform policies, and journalism.
- THE ASSEMBLY FELLOWSHIP is a non-residential four-month fellowship for technologists, scholars, and policymakers to tackle difficult problems in technology and policy, currently in its fifth year. From 2019-2021, the Assembly Fellowship is focused on addressing disinformation on online platforms; in previous years, the program addressed digital privacy and security, as well as the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence. Assembly Fellows develop projects and prototypes aimed at addressing challenges related to the year’s theme. Over the course of the fellowship, Assembly Fellows learn and build together with a deep focus on the public interest; after the fellowship, fellows are encouraged to apply their learnings to their ongoing work.
These three tracks build on existing work, including three programs at the Center which were formerly known as the Berklett Cybersecurity project, Techtopia, and the Assembly program, a joint initiative with the MIT Media Lab.
Assembly: Disinformation is situated within a growing field of scholars and practitioners tackling problems related to disinformation and our information ecosystem. The range and urgency of activity is heartening. Assembly is collaborative by design and builds on existing research, including the Center’s previous work on intermediary responsibility, cybersecurity, the media ecosystem, and their intersections.
We see the digital realm’s inability to cope with disinformation as part of a long-deferred reckoning on these fundamental intersections. Tackling disinformation has the potential to serve as a forcing function for difficult, important conversations on fundamental issues of trust and responsibility in our information ecosystem.
Leadership & Funding
Assembly: Disinformation is led by Professor Jonathan Zittrain, the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Faculty Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Our program staff team includes: Senior Program Manager Hilary Ross, Assistant Research Director David O'Brien, Program Coordinator Zenzele Best, Staff Fellow Oumou Ly, Senior Research Coordinator Will Marks, and Director of Art and Education at metaLAB Sarah Newman. (Learn more about our team and their roles at the bottom of the page here.) A number of additional Berkman Klein Center community and staff members also support the project's efforts.
This program is generously supported by the Ethics and Governance of AI Fund. Previously, this program was supported by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Knight Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. More information about the Berkman Klein Center's funding and support can be found here.