Why We Invested
Established in 2016 by Columbia University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight First Amendment Institute defends the freedoms of speech and of the press at a moment when our democracy is under extraordinary stress. The privatization of the public square, the emergence of new technologies of disinformation and suppression, the draconian treatment of whistleblowers, the demonization of the media—all of these raise complex and urgent questions relating to the substance and strength of First Amendment freedoms.
Under the leadership of Jameel Jaffer, formerly of the ACLU, the Institute seeks to address 21st century challenges and develop 21st century approaches to the First Amendment, with a current concentration on strengthening legal frameworks for government transparency, reviving the First Amendment as a constraint on government surveillance, and protecting the integrity and vitality of public discourse. In the past year, the Institute has developed a cutting-edge litigation docket, launched an innovative research program, and hosted public programs that have featured some of the most provocative and insightful thinkers at the intersection of law, journalism, and technology. The Institute has also received support from Laura and John Arnold, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, as well as from Columbia University.