Focus areas: Media, development, innovation, media in Africa and the extractive sector

Anya Schiffrin is the director of the Technology, Media, and Communications at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a lecturer who teaches on global media, innovation and human rights.  She writes on journalism and development, investigative reporting in the global south and has published extensively over the last decade on the media in Africa. More recently she has become focused on solutions to the problem of online disinformation, earning her PHD on the topic from the University of Navarra.  She is the editor of Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Reporting from Around the World (New Press, 2014) and African Muckraking: 75 years of Investigative journalism from Africa (Jakana 2017).  She is the editor of Media Capture: How Money, Digital Platforms and Governments Control the News (Columbia University Press 2021)

Research & Publications

November 2020|Forum on Information and Democracy|Anya Schiffrin, Maria Ressa, Marietje Schaake, Sinan Aral, Julia Cagé, Ronald Deibert, Camille François, Roukaya Kasenally, David Kaye, Edison Lanza, Roger McNamee, Jun Murai, Peter Pomerantsev, Julie Posetti, Vivian Schiller, Wolfgang Schulz, Christopher Wylie

Launched in 2019 by 11 non-governmental organizations and research centres, the Forum on Information and Democracy created a working group on infodemics in June to devise a “regulatory framework” to respond to the information chaos on online platforms and social media. After five months of work, this group published a detailed report with 250 recommendations for governments and digital platforms which identifies four structural challenges and proposes concrete solutions for each of them.

September 2020|Roosevelt Institute|Anya Schiffrin

This report surveys the impact of online political ads on election outcomes, examines the current regulatory landscape in the US and in Europe around mis/disinformation online, and proposes a set of policy solutions to curb the spread of false information, enhance disclosure requirements for paid political communications, strengthen privacy regulations, and restore transparency to political messaging in the US.

July 2020|Universidad de Navarra|Anya Schiffrin

The premise of this dissertation is that 2016 was the year that societies began to understand the dangers of online/mis disinformation and decided to fund and implement solutions even though they had not been fully researched or tested. Many of the fixes were, in fact, based on the financial interests or belief systems of the people doing them. We provide a taxonomy of the variety of initiatives aimed at solving the problem, with the objective of enhancing our understanding of the strengths and limitations of each. The “solutions” we compare and contrast in this research include fact-checking initiatives and projects by journalists to promote community engagement, media literacy programs, technical fixes such as using natural language processing/AI to block false and/or inflammatory content and finally government regulation. Drawing on dozens of interviews with funders, journalists and regulators as well as archival material and including an exhaustive bibliography, this dissertation looks at the universe of solutions in an organized, structured way and concludes with policy proposals to help promote democracy.

September 2019|Social Science Computer Review|Anya Schiffrin, Karolina Koc-Michalska, Anamaria Lopez, Shelley Boulianne, Bruce Bimber

The gender dynamics of political discussion are important. These dynamics shape who shares their political views and how they share their views and reactions to these views. Using representative survey data from the United States and the UK, we investigate how social media platforms shape the gender dynamics of political posting. We also examine the concept of “mansplaining”—a term used to describe a patronizing form of communication directed at women by men.We argue that the possibility of being mansplained affects who is willing to post their opinions online, and as such, caution should be exercised when using digital trace data to represent public opinion.