In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, platforms have emerged as powerful intermediaries that shape our online experiences, social interactions, and access to information. While platforms have brought numerous benefits, there is now an overwhelming recognition of their potential negative effects on individuals, society, and democracy. From the spread of misinformation and privacy concerns to cyberbullying and algorithmic biases, these harms demand a comprehensive and nuanced understanding, as well as mitigation strategies.
This paper serves as a summary report for the Democracy and Internet Governance Initiative, a two-year joint initiative between Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy. It delves into the rationale and components of a new risk-centered approach to analyze and address the negative impacts of digital platforms. It also explores the key dimensions that should be considered when assessing platform risk, including mental and physical health, financial security, privacy, social and reputational wellbeing, professional security, sovereignty, and strength of public goods.