This Practicum works closely with the Hewlett Foundation Madison Initiative on an exhaustive study of fake news, misinformation, disinformation and propaganda and their implications for democracy in America and around the world. The client, the Hewlett Foundation Madison Initiative, is developing a grant-making program for interventions in the spread of fake news and misinformation which also promote accurate information for a healthy, deliberative democracy. The Practicum builds on the work of a Spring 2017 Practicum, led by Senator Russ Feingold, which analyzed the roles of major online platforms – Google, Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter – in proliferating fake news and misinformation in the 2016 election. Students will contribute to that study with their own independent research focusing on such issues as self-regulation by the platforms, legal and regulatory frameworks, analysis of algorithms and user data, and other issues that arise with current events or through ongoing research findings. Students will undertake literature reviews, legal case analysis, investigations of business practices and algorithms associated with the relevant platforms, surveys of the roles of foreign governments, and analysis of policy proposals to combat fake news, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. In addition to law, students in the fields of communications, computer science, journalism, political science, and public policy are especially welcome to join the research team.
Students will meet one on one with Professor Persily to frame their research and discuss their findings. Students may enroll in any quarter. Those law students seeking R credit may, with consent of the instructor, move from section 1 to section 2. Section 1 is open enrollment for any law or graduate student. Undergraduates may, in exceptional cases, be admitted to the Practicum with consent of the instructor.