CDDRL Honors Student, 2021-22

Major: Political Science
Minor: Computer Science; Ethics and Technology 
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Thesis Advisor: Francis Fukuyama

Tentative Thesis Title: Examining Why Countries With Little Histories of Privacy Enact Data Privacy Laws

Future aspirations post-Stanford: I'm not sure precisely what I want to do after college, but I hope to work at the intersection of technology and law/policy.

A fun fact about yourself: I'm a vegetarian from Texas (and my hometown is actually referred to as Cowtown).


Algorithms, Privacy & the Future of Tech Regulation in California

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California-grown technology has led the nation and world in multiple ways—from democratizing the ways we live, work and play, to posing enormous ethical and social challenges that have fueled demands for government regulation.

When, and how, should state governments regulate the harms caused by new technologies? And what are the conditions under which industry self-regulation more appropriate? How do we balance the need to encourage innovation while also protecting communities from harm?

Join experts in academia, industry, and government in a deeper conversation about algorithms, privacy, and the future of tech regulation in California.

Featuring Jeremy Weinstein (Stanford professor and co-author of the recent book System Error), Jennifer Urban (Board Chair of the California Privacy Protection Agency), Ernestine Fu (California 100 Commissioner and Venture Partner, Alsop Louie), and Karthick Ramakrishnan (Executive Director, California 100) as the moderator, this discussion will cover present-day challenges and remedies on data privacy and lack of consumer power, as well as larger questions about when and how to step into future regulation conversations involving new technologies.


Drawing on a qualitative analysis of 7,506 tweets by state-sponsored accounts from Russia’s GRU and the Internet Research Agency (IRA), Iran, and Venezuela, this article examines the gender dimensions of foreign influence operations. By examining the political communication of feminism and women’s rights, we find, first, that foreign state actors co-opted intersectional critiques and countermovement narratives about feminism and female empowerment to demobilize civil society activists, spread progovernment propaganda, and generate virality around divisive political topics. Second, 10 amplifier accounts—particularly from the Russian IRA and GRU—drove more than one-third of the Twitter conversations about feminism and women’s rights. Third, high-profile feminist politicians, activists, celebrities, and journalists were targeted with character attacks by the Russian GRU. These attacks happened indirectly, reinforcing a culture of hate rather than attempting to stifle or suppress the expression of rights through threats or harassment. This comparative look at the online political communication of women’s rights by foreign state actors highlights distinct blueprints for foreign influence operations while enriching the literature about the unique challenges women face online.

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International Journal of Communication
Samantha Bradshaw
Amélie Henle
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 Register for System Error, Live!

This event will be held outside on Stanford's campus. In accordance with Santa Clara County Public Health, masks are encouraged to be worn by all at crowded outdoor events.

Join Profs. Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami, and Jeremy Weinstein — the authors of System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot — for a discussion hosted by Professor Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. The operating system of Big Tech is broken, and this panel discussion will explore the path to a reboot. Plus, it will also allow you experience Professor Sahami’s famous tradition of throwing candy into the audience!

A forward-thinking manifesto from three Stanford professors — experts who have worked at ground zero of the tech revolution for decades — System Error reveals how Big Tech’s obsession with optimization and efficiency has sacrificed fundamental human values and demands that we change course to renew our democracy and save ourselves.

Armed with an understanding of how technologists think and exercise their power, these three Stanford professors—a philosopher working at the intersection of tech and ethics, the director of the undergraduate computer science program who was also an early Google engineer, and a political scientist who served under Barack Obama—reveal how we can hold that power to account. Troubled by the values that permeate the university and Silicon Valley, these professors worked together to chart a new path forward, creating a popular course to transform how tomorrow’s technologists might better approach their profession. Now, as the dominance of Big Tech becomes an explosive societal conundrum, join us as they share their provocative insights and concrete solutions to help everyone understand what is happening, what is at stake, and what we can do to control technology instead of letting it control us.

Books will be available for purchase at the event, and the authors will be signing copies as well.

This event is hosted by Professor Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and it is co-sponsored by the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, the Stanford School of Engineering, and the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences.

Rob Reich | FSI Affiliate
Mehran Sahami | Associate Chair for Education, Computer Science Department Associate Chair for Education, Computer Science Department
Jeremy Weinstein | FSI Senior Fellow at CDDRL
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The Project on Middle East Political Science partnered with Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and its Global Digital Policy Incubator for an innovative two week online seminar to explore the issues surrounding digital activism and authoritarianism. This workshop was built upon more than a decade of our collaboration on issues related to the internet and politics in the Middle East, beginning in 2011 with a series of workshops in the “Blogs and Bullets” project supported by the United States Institute for Peace and the PeaceTech Lab. This new collaboration brought together more than a dozen scholars and practitioners with deep experience in digital policy and activism, some focused on the Middle East and others offering a global and comparative perspective. POMEPS STUDIES 43 collects essays from that workshop, shaped by two weeks of public and private discussion.
Larry Diamond
Shelby Grossman
Renée DiResta
Josh A. Goldstein
Melissa De Witte
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This interview by Melissa De Witte originally appeared in Stanford News.

The upcoming summit between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin is not rewarding the Russian leader for his bad behavior: It’s opening negotiations and delivering a warning to him instead, says Stanford scholar Kathryn Stoner.

Here, Stoner is joined by Stanford political scientist and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Payne Distinguished Lecturer at CISAC and former Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller and Russia historian Norman Naimark to discuss what to expect at the summit in Geneva on Wednesday.

The meeting, the scholars say, could reset U.S.-Russia relations, signal deterrence on certain issues – including cybersecurity in light of attacks like the SolarWinds breach that the U.S. has blamed on the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service – and launch strategic stability talks related to nuclear weapons.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity. For more information on what to expect about the Biden-Putin summit from FSI scholars, visit the FSI website.

Where does diplomacy now stand between the U.S. and Russia?

Naimark: Russian-American relations are at their lowest point since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, perhaps even since the last years of Gorbachev’s rule. When relations are fraying between the world’s two most powerful nuclear powers, the coming of the summit on June 16 between President Biden and President Putin should be welcomed. It’s worth recalling the heightened military tensions just three months ago between Moscow and Washington, when Moscow moved tens of thousands of troops to the Ukrainian border and mobilized its air and sea power in the region. Both leaders have emphasized that they seek stability, reliability and predictability in their bilateral relations; at the same time, their respective administrations have warned that expectations should be kept at the minimum for any kind of serious breakthrough at the summit.

Stoner: We’ve lost a lot of leverage because of the withdrawal from global politics that started under the latter part of the Obama administration and continued with Trump with his America First platform, which meant America alone. There is some leverage, it’s just how much. We don’t necessarily want to destabilize Russia because it’s a big, complicated country with nuclear weapons, but all signs point to Putin staying in office until 2036. He’s not going away. I think we have to try to signal deterrence on certain issues, like trying to move into another former Soviet republic as he is doing with Ukraine, Georgia and potentially Belarus, but then cooperate in other areas where it is productive to do so.

What do you think about some of the criticisms toward Biden meeting with Putin? For example, that Biden meeting with Putin is only rewarding him for his bad behavior.

Stoner: There is a reasonable question about why Biden and Putin are meeting and if it is somehow rewarding Putin for bad behavior by having a summit with the President of the United States. Rather than rewarding Putin, however, I think this meeting could be Biden’s warning to him that if hacking and other cyberattacks continue, we have a menu of things we could do as well.

Naimark: There is no reason that the American president cannot talk about difficult subjects like cybersecurity, ransomware attacks, human rights, the release of Alexei Navalny, the protection of Ukrainian sovereignty and other important items on the American agenda while focusing on issues of mutual interest: the future of arms control, global warming and the regulation of the Arctic, and outer space. One can always hope that, like the last summit on Lake Geneva between Russian and American leaders [Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan] in November 1985, this one can lay the groundwork for serious improvements in relations in the near future.

Is this meeting a reset of diplomatic relations between the two nations?

Stoner: I know in Washington it is popular to say that Biden is not having a reset of relations with Russia when past presidents all have tried that. I think that’s wrong. I do think it is a reset in the relationship in that there should be more clarity and stability, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be friendly and universally cooperative, given that we still see many differences in perspectives and some antagonism too. Still, Russia and the U.S. need to talk because there are a lot of issues in common where it would be helpful to coordinate with Russia. After all, even in the depths of the Cold War, the leaders of both countries still talked. Russia has reestablished itself as the most formidable power in Europe and it looks like Biden is acknowledging that and the fact that the U.S. can no longer afford to ignore Russia.

Is there anything the two leaders will be able to agree upon?

McFaul: I used to organize these kinds of meetings when I worked in the government and back when President Medvedev was there. We would have these meetings as a way to force our governments to produce what is called in State Department-speak “deliverables.” We didn’t have meetings to have them, we wanted to get things done. In the first Obama-Medvedev meeting we had a long list of deliverables when they met in July of 2009.

But there is no way that will happen with Putin today because he doesn’t really want to cooperate, he doesn’t really want deliverables. That’s challenging for President Biden, I think, because he has said that he wants a stable, predictable relationship with Putin. I think that’s fine to aspire to, but I don’t think Putin is that interested in that kind of relationship, so that creates a challenge of substance for summits like this.

Gottemoeller: With such different threat perceptions, the two presidents are not going to agree in Geneva about what should go into the next nuclear treaty. They can agree, though, to put their experts together to hammer it out. They can also agree to put the two sides together to tackle the different threat perceptions and the question of what stability means. Finally, they can agree to a deadline, so the talks don’t stall. It won’t be a headline-grabbing outcome, but at least Moscow and Washington will get moving again on the nuclear agenda.

Where can Biden make progress?

McFaul: I think the most likely place to make progress is to launch strategic stability talks, which is an abstract phrase for beginning the process of negotiations about nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles that would be a follow-on to the New START treaty. Biden and Putin rightfully extended the New START treaty early in his term for five years, and I think that was very smart. I personally worked on that treaty, so I think it’s a good treaty and deserves to be extended. But it’s going to run out really fast because the next set of negotiations are going to be much more complicated. I hope they would start some process to begin those negotiations now.

Gottemoeller: Maybe the only place where President Biden can make progress with Vladimir Putin in Geneva is the nuclear agenda with Russia. Since the two men agreed, in February, to extend the New START treaty by five years, they have put out a clear public message that they intend to pursue a deal to replace New START and to launch strategic stability talks. They are not going to have identical ideas, however, about what those two goals mean.

Biden wants a new arms control deal that will control all nuclear warheads, whether launched on intercontinental strategic-range missiles or on shorter-range systems. He also wants to get a handle on some of the new types of nuclear weapons that the Russians have been developing. One new system, for example, uses nuclear propulsion to ensure that it can fly for many hours at great speed over long distances, earning it the moniker “weapon of vengeance.” These exotic weapons did not exist when New START was negotiated; now, they need to be controlled.

Putin, by contrast, focuses on U.S. long-range conventional missiles that he worries are capable of the accuracy and destructive power of nuclear weapons. The United States, in his view, could use these conventional weapons to destroy hard targets such as the Moscow nuclear command center. He also worries that the United States is producing ever more capable ways to intercept his nuclear missiles and destroy them before they reach their targets. In his worst nightmare, the United States undermines his nuclear deterrent forces without ever resorting to nuclear weapons.

What advice do you have for Biden?

McFaul: One, do not have a one-on-one meeting – just have a normal meeting. Two, I would recommend not having a joint press conference that just gives Putin a podium for the world to say his “whataboutism” stuff; it’s better to have separate press conferences because most of the world will be more interested in what Biden says compared to what Putin says.

Third, I think it’s important to cooperate when you can but also be clear about your differences and don’t pull punches on that. In particular, I want Biden to talk about Alexei Navalny, the Americans who are wrongly detained in Russia today, Crimea still being occupied, Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine, and parts of Georgia that are under occupation. They have been attacking us relentlessly with these cyberattacks, these Russian criminals who in my view have to have some association with the Russian government.

That’s a tough list, but I think it’s really important for President Biden to say those things directly to Putin. I have confidence that he can. I was at their last meeting. I traveled with the vice president in 2011 when he met with then Prime Minister Putin. Biden is capable of delivering tough messages and I hope he uses this occasion to do so again.

What would be a sign that their meeting was productive?

Stoner: One sign the meeting was productive would be if Biden and Putin could agree to establish a joint committee or council on some rules surrounding cybersecurity. Another would be if they make plans to talk again about either replacing or reviving the Minsk-2 agreement [that sought to bring an end to Russia’s war on Ukraine]. And three, a positive sign would be if they plan to do some negotiation on further reducing tactical nuclear weapons or strategic nuclear weapons. An agreement to disagree on some issues, but to continue talking on others would be indicative of at least some small progress.

The Russian and American flags flying side by side

Assessing the Biden-Putin Summit

Analysis and commentary on the Biden-Putin summit from FSI scholars.
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Scholars at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies hope that President Joe Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will lay the groundwork for negotiations in the near future, particularly around nuclear weapons.

Digital Activism and Authoritarian Adaptation in the Middle East Agenda (1 of 2)

Digital Activism and Authoritarian Adaptation in the Middle East Agenda (2 of 2)

Panel 1: Digital Activism

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 | 9-10:30 am PT

Opening Remarks: Marc Lynch, Eileen Donahoe, and Larry Diamond

Moderator: Hesham Sallam

  • Wafa Ben-Hassine: “The Hyper-Aware and Not-So-Aware: What's Next for the MENA Region's Activists and Society at Large Vis-a-Vis the Internet?”
  • Adel Iskander: “Re(Membering) Culture and Heritage: Egypt's Latest Political Turf War”
  • Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld: “Civilian Behavior on Social Media During Civil War”
  • Joshua Tucker: “Beyond Liberation Technology? The Recent Uses of Social Media by Pro-Democracy Activists”


Panel 2: Authoritarian Abuses of Internet Technologies

Thursday, May 27, 2021 | 9-10:30 am PT

Moderator: Marc Lynch

  • Marwa Fatafta: “Transnational or Cross-Border Digital Repression in the MENA Region”
  • Andrew Leber: “Social Media Manipulation in the MENA: Inauthenticity, Inequality, and Insecurity” (Co-authored paper with Alexei Abrahams)
  • Marc Owen Jones: “Tracking Adversaries: The Evolution of Manipulation Tactics on Gulf Twitter”
  • Xiao Qiang: “Chinese Digital Authoritarianism and Its Global Impact”


Panel 3: Government Reshaping of Norms and Practices to Constrain Online Activity

Tuesday, June 1, 2021 | 9-10:30 am PT

Moderator: Eileen Donahoe

  • Ahmed Shaheed: “Binary Threat: How State Cyber Policy and Practice Undermines Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa Region”
  • Mona Elswah, Mahsa Alimardani: "The Hurdles Involved in Content Moderation in the MENA Region"
  • Mohamed Najem: “The Role of the Gulf in Governing Digital Space in the Arab Region”
  • James Shires: “The Techno-Regulation of Critical Communications Infrastructures and Their Political Potential in the Gulf”
  • Alexei Abrahams: “The Web (In)Security of Middle Eastern Civil Society and Media”


Panel 4: Cross-Border Information Operations

Thursday, June 3, 2021 | 9-10:30 am PT

Moderator: Larry Diamond

  • Alexandra Siegel: “Official Foreign Influence Operations: Transnational State Media in the Arab Online Sphere”
  • Hamit Akin Unver: “Russian Disinformation Operations in Turkey: 2015-2020”
  • Shelby Grossman and Renee DiResta: “In-House vs. Outsourced Trolls: How Digital Mercenaries Shape State Influence Strategies”
  • Nathaniel Gleicher: “Covert Manipulation, Overt Influence, Direct Exploit: Understanding and Countering Influence Operations in the Middle East and Beyond”

Recent years have witnessed an increasing number of cyber attacks originating in Russia that target the United States, European Union and EU member-states.  In Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine—a conflict that has claimed some 13,000 lives—Russia has employed cyber tactics on a regular basis, including release against Ukraine of the Petya and NotPetya viruses.

Those attacks had consequences far beyond Ukraine’s borders.  The NonPetya attack, initiated against a small tech firm in Ukraine, spread to global businesses and government agencies throughout Europe and crossed the Atlantic to the United States.  The West should closely examine the Ukrainian experience, as Russia perfects tactics that could be turned against Europe and the United States as well.

Improving the security of the Internet will require sharing knowledge and experience, promoting greater awareness on cyber security, developing cyber security capacities, and deepening communication and cooperation among different stakeholders.  The Panel will discuss the nature of the threat as well as what governments, international organizations and businesses should do in these areas.

Speaker Bios:

Alex Stamos is a cybersecurity expert, business leader and entrepreneur working to improve the security and safety of the Internet through his teaching and research at Stanford University. Stamos is an Adjunct Professor at Stanford’s Freeman-Spogli Institute, a William J. Perry Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, and a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution. Prior to joining Stanford, Alex served as the Chief Security Officer of Facebook. In this role, Stamos led a team of engineers, researchers, investigators and analysts charged with understanding and mitigating information security risks to the company and safety risks to the 2.5 billion people on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. During his time at Facebook, he led the company’s investigation into manipulation of the 2016 US election and helped pioneer several successful protections against these new classes of abuse. As a senior executive, Alex represented Facebook and Silicon Valley to regulators, lawmakers and civil society on six continents, and has served as a bridge between the interests of the Internet policy community and the complicated reality of platforms operating at billion-user scale.

oleh derevianko
Oleh Derevianko is a business and social entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Board of ISSP — Information Systems Security Partners — a private international cybersecurity company founded in Ukraine in 2008 and currently operating in seven countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Middle Asia. Having a strong presence in the countries at the front line of cyber and hybrid war, such as Ukraine, and serving both private and public sectors, ISSP provides unique expertise for APT attacks analysis, detection and response. Derevianko is also a co-founder of International Cyber Academy (Kyiv), which provides worldclass learning opportunities for students who want to become skilled professionals in a world that depends on the use of cyberspace. In 2015–2016 he served as Deputy Minister, Chief of Staff at Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. 

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Dr. Sarah Lewis Cortes has managed Security at American Express, Putnam Investments, Fidelity, and Biogen, among others. A postoctoral researcher at ACSO Digital Crime Lab, she performs training and consultation with the FBI and Interpol. She earned her degrees at Harvard University and Northeastern, and her research focuses on threat intelligence and the darknet, privacy and privacy law, international criminal legal treaties (MLATs), and digital forensics. At Putnam Investments, which manages over $1.3 trillion in assets, Sarah was SVP, Security. She oversaw Putnam’s recovery on 9/11 when parent company Marsh & McLennan’s World Trade Center 99th floor data center was destroyed.

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Jason Min is the Head of Business Development at Check Point Software Technologies. In this role he sources, evaluates, and executes M&A transactions. Jason is responsible for overseeing business development and sale enablement activities that involve Check Point technology partners. Since joining Check Point in 2014, Jason has contributed to the success of Check Point’s major acquisitions and partnership growth. Prior to joining Check Point, Jason was at Highland Capital, a global venture capital firm, where he sourced and executed investments in security and software companies. Before working at Highland Capital, Jason was at General Atlantic, a $28B global private equity firm, where he focused on security and software investments across all stages of company growth.

dafina toncheva usvp
Dafina Toncheva invests in emerging technologies in the enterprise space with focus on Enterprise SaaS applications and security. Dafina joined USVP in 2012 and has led investments in and joined the boards of, Apptimize, Luma Health, Arkose Labs and Raken. Most recently, Dafina served on the board of Prevoty, a leader in application security, who was acquired by Imperva where USVP was the lead investor and largest shareholder. Prior to joining USVP, Dafina was a principal investor with Tugboat Ventures since 2010. Before that, she spent two years at Venrock helping to expand the firm’s investments in SaaS, virtualization, security, infrastructure and enterprise applications. Dafina led the first institutional investment round in Cloudflare which has since transformed into one of the most successful Internet security startups in Silicon Valley. 

Nataliya Mykolska is the Ukrainian Emerging Leaders Fellow at Stanford Center for Democracy Development and Rule of Law. Before coming to Stanford Nataliya was the Trade Representative of Ukraine - Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade. In the government, Nataliya was responsible for developing and implementing consistent, predictable and efficient trade policy. She focused on export strategy and Ukrainian exportpromotion, free trade agreements, protecting Ukrainian trade interests in the World Trade Organization (WTO), dialogue with Ukrainian exporters. Nataliya was the Vice-Chair of the International Trade Council and the Intergovernmental Committee on International Trade.


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Steven Pifer is a William J. Perry fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), where he is affiliated with FSI’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and Europe Center.  He is also a nonresident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. A retired Foreign Service officer, Pifer’s more than 25 years with the State Department focused on U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union and Europe, as well as arms control and security issues.  He served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibilities for Russia and Ukraine (2001-2004), ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000), and special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council (1996-1997).  

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"The election interference tactics originally deployed by Russia against the United States and Europe are now global. Hackers across the democratic world have exploited weaknesses in campaign email servers; probed electronic voting machines for vulnerabilities; set up troll farms to spread highly-partisan narratives; and employed armies of bots to distort the truth online. Tech experts in countries such as Iran and Venezuela have borrowed these tactics and joined efforts toward the same goals: to erode confidence in electoral processes and in democratic governance itself," writes Eileen Donahoe. Read here.

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The Kofi Annan Foundation has tapped four Stanford scholars at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) to help advance one of its top priorities: to shed light on the rapidly-changing role of technology in elections around the world and to recommend ways of ensuring that digital tools strengthen—not undercut—democracy.

To that end, the foundation has formed the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age and named Stephen Stedman, a senior fellow at FSI and deputy director of its Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), to serve as its secretary general. The Chair of the commission is the former president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla.

Stedman is joined on the commission by Stanford colleagues Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer of Facebook who came to FSI as an adjunct professor earlier this year; Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the ex-president of Estonia who is now an affiliate of FSI's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC); and Nathaniel Persily, an FSI affiliate and Stanford Law School professor.

In addition, the commission's work will be run through the university's Project on Democracy and the Internet, which is a partnership of FSI, the law school, and the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS).

Kofi Annan, the former head of the United Nations and founder of the non-profit that bears his name, formed the commission earlier this year. In May, Annan visited Stanford to recruit for the commission and discuss his concerns about the growing role of the Internet—and social media, specifically—in elections worldwide.

"Kofi Annan always viewed electoral integrity as a bedrock principle in democracy and undertook a number of initiatives to counteract any attempt to undermine the voting process," said Stedman, who has led two other high-profile Annan initiatives over 15 years. "The rise of social media, fake news, hate news—the whole 'witches brew' of threats to electoral integrity globally—was of particular concern to him."

The commission's mandate is expansive: to "examine and review the opportunities for electoral integrity created by technological innovations," according to a foundation statement. Stedman adds that the plan calls for members to meet periodically before issuing their findings and recommendations before the end of 2019. As secretary general, Stedman will oversee the research and writing of the commission's final report. 

In recent years, a number of high-profile initiatives have been launched in response to technology's negative impact on the electoral process. The Kofi Annan Foundation's effort stands out for its range of expertise, said Persily: The 12 members hail from government, business, academia, and civil society and have all dealt firsthand with technology's promise and pitfalls.

"The diverse membership on this commission brings the expertise and political skills necessary to tackle these questions," said Persily. "My guess is that we won't all agree on either the nature of the problem or how to address it, but that will force us to build consensus and come up with recommendations that will make an impact." Persily co-directs the Project on Democracy and the Internet along with CDDRL director Francis Fukuyama and also leads Social Science One, a new global initiative in which academics are granted special access to Facebook data in the hopes of generating insights into social media's impact on elections around the world.

Another notable feature is the commission's geographic scope. "The United States and Europe are easy targets," said Ilves, who is involved in a number of other high-profile initiatives on technology and elections. "But the problem extends beyond the rich, northern hemisphere and that is not on people's radar screens." 

In a sign of just how urgent the role of digital tools in global elections has become, Stedman led a similar Kofi Annan Foundation commission in 2012.

"We had a lot to say six years ago about the problems affecting the integrity of elections," said Stedman, citing unfettered campaign finance and barriers to participation as examples. "But we did not anticipate the role that social media would come to play."

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