BREAKING: Harvard misinformation program implodes in disgrace

Donovan, who is not a tenure-track professor has been told that she has until the summer of 2024 to end her Technology and Social Change Project, and leave her role at the school.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

The dean of the Harvard Kennedy School is reportedly forcing "misinformation expert" Joan M. Donovan from her position at the school’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, as well as ending her research project.

Three sources that are staff members at the Harvard Kennedy School told The Harvard Crimson that Donovan, who is not a tenure-track professor has been told that she has until the summer of 2024 to end her Technology and Social Change Project, and leave her role at the school.


Donovan serves as the Shorenstein Center’s research director, and has led the project since its creation in 2019. She has also served as an adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Donovan was reportedly told that her prominence at the school led to Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf ending her time at the center, according to The Harvard Crimson.

In an email statement, Harvard Kennedy School spokesperson James F. Smith confirmed that the project is coming to an end.

"The Technology and Social Change project is winding down — through an extended transition — because it does not have intellectual and academic leadership by a full HKS faculty member, as required of all long-term research and outreach projects at HKS," Smith wrote.

According to the Shorenstein Center’s page on the project, "The Technology and Social Change Project (TaSC) explores media manipulation as a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. TaSC conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns."

Following the orders to end the project, Donovanis no longer allowed to raise new funding, a hiring freeze has been instituted, and spending constraints have been set on existing funding.

According to The Harvard Crimson, "At Harvard, Donovan was a leading force in bringing the study of misinformation and disinformation to prominence in academia. Donovan has testified in front of House and Senate subcommittees on the spread of misinformation online."

Donovan taught a Harvard Kennedy School course titled "Democracy, Politics and Institutions 622: Media Manipulation and Disinformation Campaigns," and has also published a book titled "Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America."

Donovan also co-authored a study regarding the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, which found that 20.6 percent of those who participated in the riot "were motivated to take part in the riot because they supported Trump.

Smith added in the statement that the school will continue to promote the study of misinformation.

"Harvard Kennedy School is committed to the teaching and study of misinformation and disinformation, and several faculty members are leading significant projects that address these topics," he wrote.


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