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

With the project Stop Hate Speech, the Public Discourse Foundation makes scientific findings on hateful and toxic speech accessible for the interested public in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We work to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of online hate by using up-to-date data analyses and participatory workshops, and empower civil society actors to respond to it with digital tools and an interactive knowledge hub. In this way, anyone can contribute to reducing hate speech and strengthening public discourse.

2) Media

In collaboration with media partners in the DACH region, the foundation is developing actionable, 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 discourse quality in comments sections. Based on pilot projects run jointly with our partners, we research how online media can design and moderate their comments sections to enable discussions to be as inclusive and valuable as possible.

The basis:
Public Discourse Lab

The Public Discourse Lab establishes the scientific basis which underlies the foundation’s two spheres of activity. The Lab’s research is at the nexus of machine learning, natural language processing and behavioral economics. To improve discourse quality, the Public Discourse Lab combines the use of fair and transparent algorithms for comment moderation with state-of-the-art insights from behavioral economics on designing 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)