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The Annenberg School recently announced the creation of the Center for Information Networks and Democracy. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

The Annenberg School for Communication announced the creation of the Center for Information Networks and Democracy to study the political effects of emerging technology. 

The center will be led by Annenberg professors Sandra González-Bailón and Yphtach Lelkes, according to the announcement made on March 23. CIND's work will focus on six key areas of study: algorithmic curation, collective action, digital inequalities, political segregation, information ecosystems, and political engagement. 

Within these topics, CIND aims to explore questions surrounding the emerging political usages of artificial intelligence chat boxes and social media disinformation. 

“Digital technologies have created a complex information environment that requires a multidisciplinary approach to unpack,” González-Bailón told Annenberg. “Our goal in launching this new Center is to create a space where we can build synergies and integrate research as we explore the different facets of how communication technologies shape politics." 

The Annenberg researchers emphasized the role academia must play in preventing abusive usages of emerging platforms and added that the constant evolution of online tools necessitates monitoring and safeguards.  

“Digital technologies are forcing fast-paced change in how we engage with information, communicate, and interact," González-Bailón told Annenberg.

However, not all of these changes have been positive. Increased messaging capabilities have enabled nefarious governments, movements, and actors to spread false information across the globe at alarming rates.

“Misinformation and polarization threaten the very fabric of our society, and to overcome them, we need expertise in computational social science, technology and social media, and democracy," Lelkes told Annenberg. 

From Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential election to ChatGPT’s biased responses, the newest phases of the internet age have presented new challenges to truthful, authentic communication. CIND’s purpose is to confront these issues head-on. 

"We are at a unique juncture in the study of political communication,” González-Bailón told Annenberg. “It is our hope that CIND will be the epicenter of this research, driving innovation and fostering collaboration."