The Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships (ONFS) is pleased to announce that Margo Williams ’23 has received the Projects for Peace Award.
Margo’s project, “What are the Limitations of Free Speech? Identifying and Mitigating Emerging Conflict,” focuses on the sovereignty and peacebuilding implications of the European Digital Services Act (DSA), a new piece of legislation that will impose strict content moderation rules on American social media companies. The DSA is currently being crafted by the European Parliament and will be implemented in January 2024.
Margo’s research will take her to three major European cities: Amsterdam, Paris, and Brussels. In Amsterdam, she will work with Professor Joris van Hoboken, founder of the DSA Observatory at the University of Amsterdam Institute for Information Law. The observatory has tracked the DSA since its inception and Professor van Hoboken will connect Margo to important political and policy figures in the implementation of the act. She will also work closely with Kate Klonick, associate professor at the St. John’s University School of Law and a fellow at the Brookings Institution and Yale Law School’s Information Society Project.
Margo will then travel to Paris and Brussels to conduct interviews with key figures who are currently developing the DSA. Through these conversations, she aims to learn about the peacebuilding impacts of the proposed speech restrictions, how the legislators expect the law will be received by American companies, and how these expectations have or have not shaped the law’s development. Margo plans to record these interviews and produce podcast episodes and a series of articles.
“The DSA will prompt American big tech companies to revise their content moderation policies, which means the legislation has important implications for American sovereignty, free speech, and internet governance issues broadly,” Margo says. “Through my project, I hope to identify potential for co-regulatory mechanisms to develop between American and EU governmental bodies, areas of conflict before they emerge, and which areas of the DSA are most likely to impact global free expression toward compassion and peacebuilding and away from prejudice and hate.”
This project is a culmination of Margo’s long-term interest in internet governance. As a high school senior, she conducted an independent study with her politics teacher on social media platforms and how they moderate online content. Through this study, she read Profesor Klonick’s Harvard Law Reviews and, at the suggestion of her teacher, reached out to connect. The two had a Skype call to discuss Professor Klonick’s work and have stayed in touch since.
As a junior, Margo studied abroad on the spring 2023 Geneva Study Group, led by Associate Professor of Political Science Ed Fogarty. To fulfill her internship requirement, she sought out a position at the International Telecommunication and UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development. As a research intern, she wrote a paper on child online safety and conducted research for an ongoing international youth innovation lab project. Margo also aided in the coordination and production of videos which highlighted youth entrepreneurs who have used connective technology to support their rural communities. The Broadband Commission was thoroughly impressed with Margo’s work, and she continued to intern with them during summer 2022 in their New York City office.
Projects for Peace was founded by the late philanthropist and political activist Kathryn W. Davis and administered by Middlebury College. Each year, more than 100 students are awarded $10,000 in grant funding for an original project. According to the Projects for Peace website, the global program “encourages young adults to develop innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues. Along the way, these student leaders increase their knowledge, improve skills, and establish identities as peacebuilders and changemakers.” Colgate has been a Projects for Peace partner institution since 2007 and has awarded 17 grants to date.
For more information about Projects for Peace and other opportunities, please stop by Benton 206H or contact Assistant Director Trey Spadone at email@example.com to schedule a meeting with the Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships.