CITAP navigates its first year

Just over a year after its launch, the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) has made significant progress on multiple fronts.

Organizational growth

Over the summer, CITAP welcomed Senior Faculty Researchers Tressie McMillan Cottom, Shannon McGregor, and Francesca Tripodi, as well as the Center’s first executive director, program coordinator, and post-doctoral fellow. 

This fall, 25 new research affiliates representing seven institutions and several graduate research assistants joined the organization. Additional post-docs and staff hires are anticipated as various projects mature, and the Center plans to recruit new affiliates and fellows annually.   

Months of renovations transformed a computer lab in Manning Hall into a multi-functional space for CITAP, including offices, partitioned desks, and meeting areas. 

Publications and perspectives

During the tumultuous events of 2019-2020, CITAP Principal Researchers helped clarify the ways digital media both amplify and reflect our beliefs, affiliations, and behavior. They shared their findings through more than 50 publications and dozens of interviews and analyses for national news outlets. 

Zeynep Tufekci tackled a variety of topics related to COVID-19 in columns for The Atlantic, New York Times, and other popular venues.

Drawing on her research into the far-right’s use of social media to spread disinformation, Alice Marwick spoke with several news outlets, including the Today Show, about conspiracy theory QAnon. In May, Marwick was awarded a prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to further her research into online radicalization. 

Deen Freelon continued his pioneering work on race and identity’s roles in social media behavior, publishing “Black Trolls Matter: Racial and Ideological Asymmetries in Social Media Disinformation,” in April’s Social Science Computer Review. This fall, Freelon had back-to-back publications in Science magazine, the first focusing on computational social science obstacles and opportunities (doi: 10.1126/science.aaz8170). The second, co-authored with Marwick and Daniel Kreiss, appears in Science’s “Democracy in the Balance” issue and explores how left- and right-wing activists use digital and legacy media differently to achieve political goals (doi: 10.1126/science.abb2428).

In their report “Enforcers of Truth: Social Media Platforms and Misinformation,” Kreiss and CITAP graduate research affiliates Bridget Barrett and Madhavi Reddi present a comparison of misinformation policies across six popular social media platforms. This examination of selective fact-checking has tremendous value for practitioners wishing to establish a system of digital political ethics, as well as for social media users in general. See citapdigitalpolitics.com for the report. 

CITAP logo

Carolina established CITAP in 2019 with a $5 million gift from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and support from Luminate and the 
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Learn more at citap.unc.edu, follow CITAP on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to its newsletter at citap.substack.com.

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