Project Liberty Collaborates with MIT Center for Constructive Communication and Cortico to Support Creation of Healthier Social Networks

10 May 2023

An ambitious cross-disciplinary effort is launched to build healthier social networks.

BOSTON, May 10, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Project Liberty announced the launch of a cross-disciplinary collaboration with researchers at the MIT Center for Constructive Communication (CCC) and closely affiliated nonprofit Cortico that seeks to build safer and healthier social networks. This collaborative effort seeks to develop and deploy new approaches to enable trusted and meaningful connections within and across digital communities. One of the first technical projects will be to research and experiment with the role of decentralized social network designs including the open-source Decentralized Social Networking Protocol (DSNP) that was released by Project Liberty in 2021.

"The business models behind today's dominant social media platforms, as well as the inherent flaws in our prevailing tech architecture, are harming society on a massive scale and threatening democracies worldwide," said Frank McCourt, Founder and Executive Chairman of Project Liberty. "Fortunately, there's much we can do to drive systemic change and unleash the benefits of technology while reducing its harms. MIT's Center for Constructive Communication and Cortico share this belief, and Project Liberty is excited to collaborate on and support their innovative efforts to leverage and develop technology for the common good, empower people over platforms, and build healthier social media alternatives." 

"This exciting collaboration with MIT's Center for Constructive Communication and Cortico is a great way to advance our vision – to accelerate the world's transition to an open, inclusive data economy that empowers people over platforms by working to mobilize the foundation of a new internet for the common good," said Martina Larkin, CEO of Project Liberty. "We know the damage - to our societies and democracies, and to the health and safety of individual users - that social media causes. And we know that this is happening because of the deliberate construction of business models and methods that cause serious harm. To fix this, we need to rapidly harness new technologies, such as DSNP. This collaborative effort will accelerate work to create more trusted and constructive digital communities and, as a result, strengthen society."

"With growing evidence that social media is weakening our social fabric and threatening our democracy, it's critical that we find new ways forward or we'll be heading for disaster," said CCC Director Deb Roy, who is a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT and co-founder and CEO of Cortico. "The good news is that, by harnessing the power of digital technology and unlocking the promise of decentralized technologies like DSNP, we can create healthier social media alternatives and answer the growing calls for new digital spaces that support, rather than weaken, societies."

"This effort will draw on MIT's strong cross-disciplinary research tradition to address the increasingly divisive nature of today's social media culture. I look forward to seeing how this collaboration's in-depth research in AI, sensemaking, machine learning, and digital design will come together to help create more trusted social networks that will foster more meaningful and constructive dialogues," said Maria T. Zuber, E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and vice president for research at MIT.

In addition to creating healthy social networks, other planned projects include the development of AI-powered sensemaking tools for scaled community listening, and hardware to integrate in-real-life conversations with digital networks.

This effort, and the work led by CCC and Cortico, have more than $22 million in funding commitments from organizations and individuals including Project Liberty, Reid Hoffman, the MCJ Amelior Foundation, the Quadrivium Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and Yat Siu.

Fostering collaborations across the MIT campus and beyond, the MIT Center for Constructive Communication (CCC), based at the MIT Media Lab, leverages data-driven analytics to better understand current social and mass media ecosystems and designs new tools and communication networks to foster constructive dialogue, listening, and bridging across divides. To achieve this, CCC brings together researchers in AI, computational social science, digital interactive design, and learning technologies with software engineers, journalists, political scientists, designers, and community organizers. An important aspect of the center is its commitment to design new models for more trusted and less toxic social networks.

About Cortico
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Cortico maintains a long-term cooperation agreement with MIT that enables close collaboration with the MIT Center of Constructive Communication (CCC) on IP, prototyping, and field pilots. It is through Cortico that CCC deploys scalable projects into the field and works closely with experienced, locally based organizations and trusted influencers in underserved, marginalized communities across the country to help facilitate face-to-face conversation and surface diverse voices and nuanced perspectives needed to advance a more constructive and trusted public dialogue. To date, Cortico's growing network has involved more than 10,000 participants throughout 38 US states, working with more than 70 local and global organizations.

About Project Liberty
Project Liberty is an international nonprofit accelerating the world's transition to an open, inclusive data economy that empowers people over platforms by working to mobilize the foundation of a new internet for the common good. Project Liberty is building a global alliance for responsible technology and bringing together technologists, academics, policymakers, civil society and citizens to build a safer, healthier tech ecosystem.

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