Public Discourse Foundation

For a strong democracy with the widest possible participation in public discourse – free of hate and virtual violence.

Public Discourse Foundation

As a not-for-profit, politically independent foundation, the Public Discourse Foundation aims to research and strengthen public discourse online.

We develop strategies to reduce toxic speech and foster constructive contributions, and translate this research into scalable solutions. Our aim is to improve public discourse to encourage the widest possible participation.

In this way, the Public Discourse Foundation strengthens freedom and diversity of expression, societal cohesion, and democracy.

Spheres of activity

1) Civil society

Societal level: The Stop Hate Speech project (website in German and French) raises awareness and encourages civil society to respond simply and effectively to hate speech. We share successful, tested counter-speech strategies to show how the presence of toxic language and hate speech can be reduced and the quality of online debate improved (e.g. with empathy, see study here).

Individual level: In order to provide the best possible support to those affected by hate speech, we are working together with them and civil society movements to develop a first aid toolkit and make it available to the general public. In this way, we offer help for self-help with strategies on how online civil society groups can support and protect each other.

2) Media

In collaboration with media partners in the German-speaking region (DACH), the foundation develops concrete and scalable strategies to improve public discourse. We provide technical solutions and scientific know-how to our media partners and are in the process of developing a comprehensive toolbox to improve the discourse quality in comment sections. Based on projects run jointly with our partners, we research how online media can design and moderate their comments sections to enable inclusive and valuable discussions. We aim to analyse the discourse in comment sections in real time in order to promptly identify increases in toxic content and make these results accessible to a broad audience.


The Public Discourse Lab establishes the scientific basis for the two areas of activity civil society and media. The Public Discourse Lab's research, which benefits from a close collaboration with ETH Zurich, is at the interface of current methods in the fields of machine learning, natural language processing and social sciences. To strengthen the quality of discourse and minimize toxic language, the Public Discourse Lab combines the development of fair and transparent algorithms with the latest practical findings from behavioural economics for the design of digital discussion platforms.


The components of the Public Discourse Foundation are:


Sophie Achermann
Director, co-founder Public Discourse Foundation
Morgane Bonvallat
Media and civil society
Laura Bronner
Scientific director
Public Discourse Lab
Simone Eymann
Philip Grech
Senior Advisor (Liaison ETH Zurich)

Board of Trustees

Dominik Hangartner
President of the Board of Trustees
Co-founder Public Discourse Foundation Professor of public policy, ETH Zürich
Kathrin Bertschy
Co-President alliance F
Member of the National Council, Bern
Katia Murmann
Co-founder EqualVoice and Edit-a-thon
Former member of the executive board at Blick

Scientific Advisory Board:

  • Fabrizio Gilardi (Chair, Professor of Policy Analysis at University of Zurich)
  • Karsten Donnay (Deputy Chair, Assistant Professor of Political Behavior and Digital Media at University of Zurich)
  • Anita Gohdes (Professor of International and Cyber Security at Hertie School)
  • Josh Tucker (Professor of Politics at New York University)
  • Gloria Gennaro (Assistant Professor in Public Policy and Data Science at University College London)