Democracy Fund White Papers

Over the summer of 2016, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism partnered with the Democracy Fund Voice to develop a series of white papers that looked at the effect the election cycle had on amplifying false fears about terrorist attacks and Muslims in America. The Tow Center delivered three thought-provoking papers and a series of events ahead of the U.S. presidential election cycle.

September 26, 2016
Fear and the Ballot Box

Fear and the Ballot Box by Burhan Wazir examines how actions taken by politicians and members of the media have shaped recent elections in the wake of acts of terrorism and how the growth of social media platforms and web-based news has become part of the picture. Findings show elections conducted against a backdrop of both terrorism and the fear of terrorism frequently drive voters to elect leaders who are seen to be tough on security; allegations of political and media collusion in the aftermath of a terrorist attack lead to long-lasting and institutional failures; and the increasingly pivotal role the media and social platforms play in shaping how the public reacts to terrorism.

Project lead: Burhan Wazir

Fanning the Flames

In Fanning the Flames, Charlie Beckett identifies trends, problems, and best practices for more constructive journalism about terror. Journalism can be created in ways that reduce the propaganda effect for either the terrorist or the panicked politician. The technology companies that provide platforms for the public and journalists to discuss and debate terrorism must do much more to improve how they filter and distribute information, which means there must be a more productive dialogue between the platforms and the news media about how their relationship can work better for the public good.

Project lead: Charlie Beckett

Hate & Incriminate

In Hate & Incriminate, Rafia Zakaria unpacks the demonization of Muslim Americans in the 2016 U.S. election. The report recommends developing and implementing a better reporting and enforcement system for hate speech and hate crimes against American Muslims. Additionally,  social media platforms must do a better job of implementing their own guidelines that already prohibit the posting of hate material against a particular group.

Project lead: Rafia Zakaria