Social media platforms increasingly exercise functions that had previously been reserved for state and federal health departments. There is currently no mechanism for oversight of health-related functions, including regulation of communications, determination of what constitutes harmful information, and dissemination of public health messages and programs (e.g., anti-smoking campaigns or vaccination campaigns). Although platforms often seek to act in the public interest, their corporate structure may incentivize them to prioritize profits, often generated through ad revenue. These mismatched incentives can have negative consequences for public health and well-being, as well as for political and social systems.
Led by Lorien Abroms, the purpose of this research cluster is to conduct multidisciplinary research into the health and societal consequences of platform policies and behaviors, including the impacts of design choices and regulatory policies on these consequences. This cluster also aims to develop proposals for new designs, policies, practices, and regulations for improving platform transparency and accountability and mitigating public health and online harms, broadly understood.
Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics
School of Media and Public Affairs
The George Washington University