Knight, Columbia commit $60 million to launch digital-era First Amendment center

From The Columbia Journalism Review The Knight Foundation and Columbia University today announced the creation of a new center that will use research, education, and litigation to advance First Amendment rights in the digital age. An independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University is backed by $60 million in funding—and it is launching at a time of growing concern about the First Amendment’s application to new technologies.

Knight and Columbia will contribute $5 million each in operating funds and $25 million each in endowment funds, according to a press release announcing the effort. The institute will use the funds to work on court cases that present opportunities to define—or redefine—free-expression principles, with an emphasis on digitally oriented cases. The plan also calls for research, publications, and events to educate the legal community on emerging First Amendment issues.

There’s no hard timeline for the institute’s opening, but a search is ongoing for a director, said Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University. The institute is expected to take shape in the coming year, with a board that will include faculty from Columbia’s law and journalism schools and people from outside the university.

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