Convergence Center For Policy Resolution

Convergence Collaborative on
DIGITAL DISCOURSE FOR A THRIVING DEMOCRACY
AND RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

Working towards digital discourse that fosters resilience, connectedness, plurality, and wellbeing in our democracy and communities.

This project is supported by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which promotes informed and engaged communities and believes that providing people with information is essential so that they and their communities can make the best choices, and New Pluralists, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and a collaborative of diverse funders and field leaders (practitioners, storytellers, researchers, and innovators) working together to catalyze a culture of pluralism, belonging and respect in America. 

The Vision

A democracy and society where digital discourse fosters connected and resilient communities, empowered and resilient individuals, and trustworthy information and sustainable local media. 

The Problem

The internet, social media and digital technology are fixtures in our daily reality, influencing how we work, play, communicate, relate, consume, produce, and disseminate information. Online discourse and information are increasingly central to our social and civic life. 

While the internet has been democratizing medium for digital discourse – enabling a knowledgeable public, robust debate, vocal dissent, and connect communities – it also has a darker side. This same internet is being leveraged as a tool for disinformation, misinformation, psychological and behavioral manipulation, polarization, radicalization, surveillance, and addiction. Deception and manipulation of news and information pre-date the internet, but its acceleration, reach, and scale are greater on the web. Within a system designed to capture and monetize our attention, and against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized nation, the way we use information and communication technologies has resulted in cascading harms. 

The stakes are high. Digital platforms increasingly mediate discourse, from helping users join social groups to stay up to date on current events. The spread of false, divisive, and hurtful digital information on one hand, and over-moderation, censorship and cancel culture on the other negatively affect our individual wellbeing, tear at our community and social fabric, skew markets, and threaten our democracy by impeding our ability to stay informed, debate, and work together to solve important problems. 

National Concern

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71% of Americans say the internet does more to divide us than bring us together.

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Percentage of Americans who believe disinformation is a threat to democracy.

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49% of experts say that technology will mostly weaken democracy in the next decade. Only 33% think technology will improve democracy.

Polarization and Distrust

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Over 25% of Americans perceive no institution as honest.

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Percentage of Americans who are concerned about misinformation, hate speech, abusive language and bullying online and about the size and power of large technology companies.

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Percentage of Americans who distrust social media companies to make the right content moderation decisions.

Scope of the Problem

3 OUT OF 4

3/4 of Americans overestimate their ability to spot false news stories.

1 out of 3 icons are robots and the other two are human

Social media engagement with deceptive sites reached record highs in 2020. On Twitter, nearly 1/3 of the total 155 million shares of links to US-based sites were to deceptive sites.

GMF

False news travels six times faster on social media than truthful news.

Ongoing Collaborative Problem-Solving Process

To achieve this vision, Convergence is mobilizing a uniquely diverse and powerful model to convene a multistakeholder dialogue. Members are collectively forging and testing breakthrough consensus solutions that foster digital discourse for a thriving democracy and resilient communities. Convergence will work with participants to drive implementation of their consensus solutions and impart meaningful change. These solutions will inform legislative, organization, or community-based policy, practices, priorities, or programmatic options.  Our process this far indicates that there is potential to explore a set of solutions that focuses on building trust and belonging in digital and place-based communities. Emerging areas for exploration of consensus recommendations include: 
  • Online communities: How do we engage communities and stakeholders in building online spaces that encourage healthy digital discourse? How do we ensure these ecosystems meet their needs for trustworthy information, belonging and digital wellbeing? 
  • Education and skills: Beyond just increasing interactions with trustworthy information, how do promote more constructive online interactions and cooperative discourse? How do we use our understanding of human cognition to strengthen participation capacities of online users? How do we bridge insights from psychology, bridging and conflict resolution, social and emotional learning, and civic education to foster resilience and accountability online? 
  • News and information: In the information era, how do we make it easier for users to access reliable and trustworthy content online? Inherently less scalable than national media, how can we sustainably fund local news organizations? How can local newsrooms better serve their communities, and provide more direct impact and value? 
We expect the consensus recommendations and solutions that come out of our Collaborative to have implications for leaders, experts, and practitioners across fields, as well as for information consumers. Our hope is that by bringing this uniquely diverse group together to build trust across differences, pool knowledge and resources, and champion action, we will catalyze a movement to develop collaborative solutions that lead to the betterment of ourselves, our online and physical communities, and our democracy. 

In the News

How can online discourse change to decrease toxic polarization instead?

Watch our inaugural Convergence Live event for a lively debate about the challenges around online discourse and polarization in public life between two leaders in the field. Convergence President & CEO David Eisner moderated this spirited conversation between Harvard Fellow and journalist Heidi Legg and first amendment attorney Ari Cohn.

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Convergence Center for Policy Resolution (Convergence), the leader in building collaborations across political, ideological, sectoral, and cultural divides to solve intractable issues, today released the Discovery Report for its newest project, the Convergence Collaborative on Digital Discourse for a Thriving Democracy and Resilient Communities. The report lays out the primary conflicting perspectives around the causes and potential solutions to the insidious online trends that are driving increasingly toxic levels of divisiveness, partisanship, hate, and unreliable information.

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Four Partners Announce Joint Digital Disinformation Initiative

As Washington struggles to develop a national approach to digital disinformation, an innovative partnership is bringing together citizens, experts, leaders, faith-based voices, and policymakers to develop policy recommendations that incorporate an exciting range of knowledge, perspectives, and values. The effort is led jointly by Civic Genius, Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, More in Common, and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), four nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations that work to move past political polarization.

Information, Misinformation, Disinformation and Truth: What's at Stake?

A group of diverse leaders examines digital disinformation, its causes, and the reasons why it is hard to agree on what is true and build consensus on collective solutions. Participants include Dr. Krishnan Narasimhan, chair of Doctors for America, Hillari Lombard, host of Moderate Party podcast, and the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. The webinar was hosted by leaders of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, Civic Genius, More in Common, and Interfaith Youth Core – four bridge-building organizations that recently partnered to engage local, grassroots, and faith-based audiences in national and local dialogues about this issue.

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