Information Disorder Prize Competition

The Aspen Tech Policy Hub is accepting applications for proposals that implement expert recommendations from the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder to alleviate the crisis of mis- and disinformation in America. Semi-finalists will be awarded $5,000, and a grand prize of $75,000 will be awarded to the winner.

Background

The Commission on Information Disorder was created to identify the most critical sources of mis- and disinformation and deliver a set of recommendations to help government, the private sector, and civil society respond to this challenge. Following months of internal discussion and consultation with experts, the Commission — comprising a diverse group representing academia, government, philanthropy, and nonprofit — released a report detailing 15 actionable recommendations to combat information disorder. 

The recommendations fall into 3 categories:

(1) Increasing Transparency and Understanding: Enhancing access to and inquiry in social media platforms’ practices, and more deeply examining the information environment and its interdependencies.

  • Public Interest Research: 1) Implement protections for researchers and journalists who violate platform terms of service by responsibly conducting research on public data of civic interest; and 2) Require platforms to disclose certain categories of private data to qualified academic researchers, so long as that research respects user privacy, does not endanger platform integrity, and remains in the public interest.
  • High Reach Content Disclosure: Create a legal requirement for all social media platforms to regularly publish the content, source accounts, reach and impression data for posts that they organically deliver to large audiences.
  • Content Moderation Platform Disclosure: Require social media platforms to disclose information about their content moderation policies and practices, and produce a time-limited archive of moderated content in a standardized format, available to authorized researchers.
  • Ad Transparency: Require social media companies to regularly disclose, in a standardized format, key information about every digital ad and paid post that runs on their platforms. 

(2) Building Trust: Exploring the challenges the country faces in building and rebuilding trust in the institutions people count on to support informed public discourse and debate, and the role that access to reliable facts and content plays in those conversations.

  • Truth and Transformation: Endorse efforts that focus on exposing how historical and current imbalances of power, access, and equity are manufactured and propagated further with mis- and disinformation — and on promoting community-led solutions to forging social bonds.
  • Healthy Digital Discourse: Develop and scale communication tools, networks, and platforms that are designed to bridge divides, build empathy, and strengthen trust among communities. 
  • Workforce Diversity: Increase investment and transparency to further diversity at social media platform companies and news media as a means to mitigate misinformation arising from uninformed and disconnected centers of power.
  • Local Media Investment: Promote substantial, long-term investment in local journalism that informs and empowers citizens, especially in underserved and marginalized communities.
  • Accountability Norms: Promote new norms that create personal and professional consequences within communities and networks for individuals who willfully violate the public trust and use their privilege to harm the public. 
  • Election Information Security: Improve U.S. election security and restore voter confidence with improved education, transparency, and resiliency.  

(3) Reducing Harms: Mitigating the worst harms of mis- and disinformation, such as threats to public health and democratic participation, and the targeting of communities through hate speech and extremism.

  • Comprehensive Federal Approach: Establish a comprehensive strategic approach to countering disinformation and the spread of misinformation, including a centralized national response strategy, clearly-defined roles and responsibilities across the Executive Branch, and identified gaps in authorities and capabilities. 
  • Public Restoration Fund: Create an independent organization, with a mandate to develop systemic misinformation countermeasures through education, research, and investment in local institutions.
  • Civic Empowerment: Invest and innovate in online education and platform product features to increase users’ awareness of and resilience to online misinformation.
  • Superspreader Accountability: Hold superspreaders of mis- and disinformation to account with clear, transparent, and consistently applied policies that enable quicker, more decisive actions and penalties, commensurate with their impacts — regardless of location, or political views, or role in society.
  • Amendments to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996: 1) Withdraw platform immunity for content that is promoted through paid advertising and post promotion; and 2) Remove immunity as it relates to the implementation of product features, recommendation engines, and design.

Call for Projects

The Aspen Tech Policy Hub, with support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies and ex/ante (an initiative of Schmidt Futures), seeks to fund unique and innovative projects that make meaningful progress towards ending information disorder, in direct connection to one or more of the Commission’s 15 recommendations.

Project teams are invited to identify a particular recommendation from the Commission’s report, and propose a new, untested solution that would specifically help accomplish this goal. Possible deliverables might include new technologies, policy proposals, inventions, research projects, and other innovative approaches to solving information disorder. Creativity is welcomed; projects should not feel constrained by these sample deliverables.

Up to 5 semi-finalists will be awarded $5,000 each to develop prototypes of their deliverables over an 8-week period, after which 1 team will be awarded a $75,000 grand prize towards executing its proposed idea. Applicants submitting ideas for novel technology enterprises for this program will also be given consideration for additional funding through ex/ante, a design lab incubating technology to advance free societies.

Requirements

  • All recipients of prize funds must be US citizens or permanent residents. 
  • Prize funds may not be used to influence any political campaign or to lobby any government official.
  • Prize funds may only be used to advance the submitted project.

Timeline

Nov 15 – Jan 10: Applications open for project proposals. 

Mid-Feb: Up to 5 semi-finalist teams are announced and awarded $5,000 each.

Mid-Feb – Mid-Apr: Semi-finalists develop initial prototypes of their proposed solutions.

Mid-Apr: Winner is awarded a $75,000 prize at a public event.

End of 2022: Winner provides final report on project.