Strengthening Information Environments at Demos in 2023


Strengthening Information Environments 2023

This programme looks at how we can build a more healthy, resilient and sustainable information environment for citizens in support of their democratic and digital rights. It is led by CASM at Demos.

Digitalisation and the rise of social media has transformed how we access, consume, and share information. The internet promised the democratisation of quality information, new mediums for free expression, and fresh avenues to build and sustain independent and citizen journalism.

But the reality has not been so bright. 

Misinformation, propaganda, and hate have proliferated online. Digital spaces have become dominated by a few private corporations, and the rules that govern them are built into technological systems that we don’t have oversight of. Governments, civil society and citizens are being outpaced by technology. 

Our responses to these problems aren’t good enough: we tend towards focusing on individual problems and symptoms, without taking into account how we need to fix the system as a whole. This poses fundamental and challenging questions: How do we build systems that curate and moderate information, without censoring or privileging certain views? How do we create sustainable models to support better information, without that being hijacked by bad actors? How do we empower citizens to exercise their digital and information rights, in a world where those rights pose a threat to powerful institutions? 

Building on CASM’s expertise around online harms, disinformation, content moderation and platform design we will undertake research on how digital technologies can promote healthier discussion and tackle information disorder, to ensure the internet is an inclusive and empowering place for all. 

Our research programme will identify new threats and devise new solutions, by asking: 

  • What are the emerging threats to information ecosystems online, and who is most affected? 
  • How do we reduce the risks of online information harms through the design, development and operation of existing and emerging technologies?
  • How do we regulate to reduce the risk of online harms, while protecting freedom of expression, media freedom, privacy and access to information?
  • How do we build an information ecosystem that supports democratic discourse, and amplifies rather than silences historically excluded and marginalised voices?
  • How should we respond to emerging information threats, such as gendered disinformation, scientific misinformation or online hate campaigns?
  • How can we support greater resilience to information threats in citizens?

Our key projects in 2023 include: 


We will be evaluating a pilot project testing innovative interventions to support students in creative ways to identify and respond to misinformation. Through training teachers to create pop-up newsrooms in schools, pupils will be supported to report on issues relevant to their local area using open source journalism techniques. This project aims to strengthen students’ digital media literacy and critical thinking as well as storytelling skills to build resilience to misinformation. It will also support the diversification of the media industry, by raising awareness of careers in media in underrepresented groups. 

This project is a partnership between Demos, The Student View, Bellingcat and the PSHE Association. It is being funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation through the European Media Information Fund.


Demos is supporting the Everything is Connected project, led by Professor Peter Knight, which addresses how and why the Internet has changed conspiracy theories. We will be convening policy and academic experts to investigate the responsibilities and possibilities for action to address online conspiracism: from internet platforms, media regulators and digital literacy educators to governmental and third sector organisations. 

This project is being supported by the University of Manchester, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of the Everything Is Connected project.


This project will investigate the interconnectedness between social media and content producers, influencers and news media in a digital information age. It will seek to understand how the relationship between these different parts of the information ecosystem affects discourse in digital spaces and the spread and nature of information disorder and online harms.affect discourse in digital spaces, and affects the spread and nature of information disorder and online harms. It will also reflect on current policy debates around how information environments can be effectively designed, developed and regulated in a way that protects and promotes healthier democratic discourse, wellbeing, and fundamental rights and freedoms.

This research is being funded by The Archewell Foundation.


Demos is supporting the UCL Online Speech Project, led by Dr Jeffrey Howard. A cross-disciplinary project investigating the ethics and policy of online content moderation, we will be working with the research team on how to regulate harmful online speech while protecting freedom of expression. 

This project is being supported by University College London and is funded through a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship.

Our research programme will be supported by: 


Launched in 2022, we are continuing to convene The Good Web Network. The Good Web Network is a community spanning government, industry and civil society, collaborating to build a better internet. 

Together, our network will better understand how we can build an internet that strengthens, rather than threatens, our democracy and our digital rights, including how we can support information rights and build healthier information ecosystems. We will identify where there is both consensus and division in response to emerging policy debates, and find a way forward. 

To join the network, please click here.

We will also be building on our work from throughout 2022 on:


Building on our work on state-aligned gendered disinformation, gendered disinformation across Europe, and abuse of women in the public eye, in 2022 we partnered with International Media Support and the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, with support from Digital Rights Foundation, to investigate how women journalists are threatened by gendered disinformation, abuse and censorship around the world. In line with the 10 year anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists, we produced two videos on the threats women journalists are facing in Pakistan and Moldova. This work was funded by the Coalition Against Online Violence.

This year, we are looking to further develop our international network and research on gendered disinformation and information freedoms worldwide. 


As the UK emerged out of lockdowns, increasing attention was paid to the role of anti-vaccination and pseudoscientific misinformation online throughout the pandemic. We held a series of events in 2022 in collaboration with the Challenging Pseudoscience group at the Royal Institution and with academics at the University of Warwick. We held two conferences covering how and why scientific and anti-vaccination misinformation is spread online, what can be done to slow or counter its spread, and how it relates to wider social issues. We hosted an event discussing the challenge of communicating scientific certainty in online spaces as an issue that drives both scientific research and risks being exploited in misinformation. 

This year, we are looking to further explore how healthy online and offline communities can tackle misinformation beyond simple content takedown.


In 2022, the Online Safety Bill continued to progress through Parliament – at varying speeds and amidst widespread critique both that the Bill will go too far and curb people’s digital rights, and will not go far enough to protect people effectively. We worked with Reset to look at how the Bill would address online harms in political discourse, as well as supporting several coalitions of organisations in joint briefings on key issues of privacy and tackling disinformation through digital regulation. 

This year, we are continuing our engagement on the Bill and our work with coalition partners, as well as investigating how other pieces of legislation, from the Digital Services Act in the EU to data protection and digital markets legislation in the UK, can help support a better web. 

If you would like to partner with us on further work investigating how we can improve information environments online, please get in touch!