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Policy projects

Digital technology and information

Lissajous curve made by a twin elliptic pendulum harmonograph, a mechanical device invented by Joseph Goold. Figure accompanying a printed description headed Sound-Curve Tracings by Joseph Goold, Stratford House, Nottingham.

How are digital technologies changing the way people interact with information?  What technologies are there that can fabricate and detect misinformation?  And what role does technology have to play in creating a better information environment?

The Royal Society has launched a project on digital technologies and information to investigate these questions.  This will seek to identify what a positive information environment would look like, and the role of digital technology and policymaking in supporting that. 

How are digital technologies shaping the information people encounter?

Patterns of information consumption are changing: individuals increasingly look to the online environment for news, and search engines and social media platforms play an increasingly important role in shaping access to information and participation in public debates. New technologies and uses of data are shaping this online information environment, whether through micro-targeting, filter bubbles, or sophisticated synthetic text, videos and images. 

These technologies have great potential and are already being deployed in a range of contexts from entertainment through to education.  At the same time, there are increasing concerns about new forms of online harm and erosion of trust that these could enable.

With both continued public confidence in the benefits of digital technology and wider public confidence in the information environment at stake, there is a pressing need for action to help policymakers and publics understand the capabilities of these technologies and navigate these changes.  

What is the Royal Society doing?

The Royal Society project on Digital technologies and information will:

  • Run a call for evidence;
  • Investigate technology developments or trends that have the potential to influence the information people see online, and the impact of these developments on individuals, communities and society;
  • Identify areas where further research or development could support policymaking, filling gaps in current understandings; 
  • Consider the policy responses that can help create a trustworthy information environment, including the role of technology in helping address issues of online misinformation. 
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