Globally, citizens increasingly turn to digital tools and platforms to express opposition or support for their governments and their policies, to engage in online discussion, and to organize around the sociopolitical challenges their countries face. However, citizens living in closed and repressive societies face significant barriers to civic engagement both in public and digital space. In these kinds of environments, citizens are denied venues (public or digital) where they can express opinions, exchange ideas, and engage freely in discussion about their country’s future.

Recognizing the capacity of the Internet to empower citizens, many seek to actively monitor, filter, and block content to deny citizens the ability to debate issues and share opinions. Facing repression and censorship, online communities of citizens, especially excluded or marginalized groups, are unable to create spaces for expression and subsequently to advocate for institutions and policies that represent their interests.

By building new platforms and providing new and innovative tools designed to increase digital spaces for free expression, open political dialogue, and engagement where citizen participation and civil society is threatened, the Munk School’s Digital Public Square seeks to enable the largest possible number of active participants to debate, share, and form opinions in the marketplace of ideas.

The Digital Public Square is a project of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. It is funded by the Global Peace and Security Fund at Global Affairs Canada (formerly the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development).