The Media Ecosystem Observatory (MEO) is a research initiative co-led by Professor Taylor Owen. The objective of MEO is to develop an evidence-based model for information ecosystem health, in order to both better understand the online harms and digital threats to democracy, and to safeguard against it.
The work is grounded in the premise that the integrity of the public sphere is under strain. On the surface, the most troubling manifestations are of isolated harms or “bad actors”: online forms of hate speech, harassment, “fake news”, and organized disinformation campaigns by foreign operators. But beneath these symptoms are structural issues which compromise the integrity of our information infrastructure: automation of control over information curation for purposes of attention maximization; erosion of public norms of source credibility in news media; fragmentation of media audiences that separates the polity from a common, fact-based public debate; and an accelerated tribalism that undermines democratic institutions.
The project is actively developing, trialling, and refining methods for capturing these dynamics, and most importantly, for assessing the impact that they have on the behaviour of citizens and ultimately the health of our democracy. This addresses a gap in the research community to expand its monitoring and analysis of targeted disinformation campaigns towards a broader framework that captures the health of the wider information ecosystem.