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Ambassador Karen Kornbluh has helped shape public policy since the early days of the commercial Internet as a public servant and diplomat. The New York Times called her a passionate and effective advocate for economic equality, and she was named one of Washingtonian magazine’s top influencers.

Today, she continues that work as leader of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, to ensure technology supports democracies around the globe.

She was confirmed unanimously by the US Senate to serve as US Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris during the Obama administration. There, she spearheaded the first global Internet Policymaking Principles, gained OECD agreement to provide open access to its data, and launched the OECD Gender Initiative.

She served in the Clinton administration as both deputy chief of staff at the US Treasury Department and director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Federal Communications Commission, negotiating early Internet policies. She was policy director for Senator Barack Obama and the author of his 2008 platform.

Kornbluh began her career as an economic forecaster at Townsend-Greenspan and worked in the private sector at various points in her career, including as executive vice president at the global data firm Nielsen, where she launched the Nielsen Foundation.

Kornbluh chairs the boards of Radio Free Europe and the Open Technology Fund. She has held numerous fellowships, including at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she was the senior fellow for Digital Policy, Mozilla, the Center for American Progress, and New America. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Media Mentions

There's a real danger that if Twitter changes its policy to only remove content that violates the law, we will see even more extremism at home and censorship abroad.
The declaration updates the internet freedom doctrine so that in addition to a right to connect and not be censored, the signatories also recognize a right not to be surveilled or attacked by propaganda, harassment or cyber attacks.
In order to protect human rights online, especially freedom of expression, it’s now necessary to invest in broadband connections and digital skills, while also protecting against surveillance, online violence and discrimination, and cyber-attacks.
The general public doesn't want to see more conspiracy theories and more harassment and more hate speech. There's this [disconnect] between what he's saying he wants to do [to loosen content restrictions], which sounds like a culture war initiative, versus saying that he wants to increase their profits. It doesn't seem to add up.
Such offers lead many to wonder whether this is all a joke to Musk – or if it is strategic. He has this huge platform and he maintains it by doing unexpected and crazy-seeming things, often he seems to benefit from the chaos. ... Superficially he seems to argue everyone should be able to say what they want on Twitter, which is an attractive argument to some. But this is a special case – it’s about following SEC regulations, not free speech.
At least in the EU, you're going to have to put in place systems that control the amplification of illegal speech, and then you're going to have independent audits and the regulators are going to be watching. ... His comments are a little bit naïve of the changing regulatory system.
[Twitter] is a moneymaking platform where your ideas are amplified if they're going to help the company make money. When you poll people, people say they want moderation, that they don't want conspiracy theories floating freely on their platforms, that they don't want harassment. So I think it's a misunderstanding of what people want.
Social media platforms are caught in the middle of an information war. While they’re taking steps to avoid profiting from providing information, and against state media, they’re not acting as aggressively to take down content — in part because they see value in providing access to information.
It's a tough balancing act for platforms. They do not want to call the shots in foreign policy disputes.
They want the ability to move to not one big global network but different networks where you can surveil your citizens more easily. In the longer term, Russia wants to be able to cut off access to Signal.
There is a growing sense they have a moral obligation to ensure their sites are not exploited at a time of crisis. The Russian playbook is clear — and the companies are under pressure not to wait to act against fake accounts or malign influence activity until after they are used to interfere with humanitarian assistance or inflame the conflict.
There is a growing sense they have a moral obligation to ensure their sites are not exploited at a time of crisis. The Russian playbook is clear — and the companies are under pressure not to wait to act against fake accounts or malign influence activity until after they are used to interfere with humanitarian assistance or inflame the conflict.
You can never be cyber-secure, it's always evolving and attackers always have the edge. The question is, as we get tested more and more, are we continuing to evolve?
There's a financial incentive, and there's a political incentive. And some of the actors that we see are in it for one reason or another and some are in it for both.
The tech sector is so innovative and creative and allows people to do so many things we never could have imagined before. We can't lose our sense of wonder about it all, and because there are these new opportunities, I do think the industry is going to try to put a lot of these problems behind it before we move into this new era.
I'm trying desperately to be optimistic. This has been a learning year. We didn't need another learning year – but I do think a lot of people learned a lot about how this all works and how entrenched it is and how dangerous it is.
The Facebook Papers showed that the platform can function almost like a turn-key system for extremist recruiters and the metaverse would make it even easier to perpetrate that violence.
Facebook [should] adopt a kind of “circuit breaker,” where the share button is automatically but temporarily removed on content that starts getting deep reshares very quickly, until the content can be evaluated. Something like this, could have stopped the disinformation video “Plandemic” from getting millions of views before it was ultimately removed from the site.
This is a national security vulnerability. Social media goes well beyond providing users tools to connect organically with others. It pulls users into rabbit holes and empowers small numbers of extremist recruiters to engineer algorithmic radicalization.
The [Against Malicious Algorithms Act] could incentivize larger platforms to try to avoid amplification that causes harm.
This week the dam seemed to break. The scrutiny on Facebook has made more lawmakers realize that researchers should have access to company data, to be able to assess how the services are working.
Wednesday’s developments are a win-win for both the Biden administration’s foreign-policy agenda and Ursula von der Leyen’s digital Europe. There’s a seismic shift in the global economic ground rules happening in Pittsburgh.
There are clearly still tensions — the leaders need to reconcile this new vision [for more coordination on tech and trade] with their domestic industries’ interests, which is why there’s less progress on semiconductors and platforms at this point than might have been expected.