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John Bowers


John Bowers current research interests include security vulnerabilities in autonomous systems, cryptographic methods for securing distributed archives, the regulation of social media platforms, and the quantitative analysis of legal texts.

Prior to joining the Berkman Klein Center, John attended Harvard College where he studied Social Studies and computer science. 

Projects & Tools

Assembly: Disinformation

The Assembly: Disinformation Program brings together participants from academia, industry, government, and civil society from across disciplines to explore and make progress on…

BKC Policy Practice: Digital Pandemic Response

The BKC Policy Practice on Digital Pandemic Response is an interdisciplinary program that works with public and private decision makers on difficult questions around the use of…


May 17, 2021

The Paper of Record Meets an Ephemeral Web

An Examination of Linkrot and Content Drift within the New York Times

A project to gain insight into the extent and characteristics of journalistic linkrot and content drift


Apr 14, 2020

Clearview AI is using photos to ID you. Big tech can stop it from happening again.

If the platforms don’t take the vulnerabilities exposed by this scandal seriously, the next civil liberties disaster could be worse.

If the platforms don’t take the vulnerabilities exposed by this scandal seriously, the next civil liberties disaster could be worse.



Social Media Companies Need to Take a Lesson from 16th-Century Bavaria

John Bowers, Will Marks, and Jonathan Zittrain propose a path forward for how to improve content moderation

Aug 24, 2021
The Verge

New research shows how many important links on the web get lost to time

The Verge features study from John Bowers and Jonathan Zittrain

May 21, 2021
Columbia Journalism Review

What the ephemerality of the Web means for your hyperlinks

A study by John Bowers, Clare Stanton, and Jonathan Zittrain examined hyperlinks in New York Times articles from 1996 through mid-2019.

May 21, 2021
Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

Platform Accountability Through Digital “Poison Cabinets”

Preserving records of what user content is taken down—and why—could make platforms more accountable and transparent

Apr 13, 2021

Trump's Executive Order Is the Most Futile Attack on 230 Yet

Though his executive order follows a line of misguided, bipartisan swings at the protections for online platforms, this one is distinctively terrible, John Bowers says.

May 30, 2020
HKS Misinformation Review

Answering impossible questions

Content governance in an age of disinformation

Jan 6, 2020

What should newsrooms do about deepfakes? These three things, for starters

Researchers argue the dangers of deepfakes are overblown, but they will still require journalists to give thought to how they handle unconfirmed information.

Nov 20, 2019
The Wall Street Journal

How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

The internet giant uses blacklists, algorithm tweaks and an army of contractors to shape what you see

Nov 15, 2019

Announcing Assembly: Disinformation

New program explores disinformation in the digital public sphere from a cybersecurity perspective

Aug 14, 2019

Technical Flaws of Pretrial Risk Assessments Raise Grave Concerns

Twenty-seven prominent researchers from MIT, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, UC Berkeley and Columbia have signed an open statement of concern regarding the use of actuarial risk…

Jul 17, 2019
Just Security

The Pentagon Wants to Streamline Security Clearances by Using AI. That’s a Dangerous Idea.

Emerging AI and security clearance at the Department of Defense

Apr 8, 2019
Harvard Law Today

Medical AI systems could be vulnerable to adversarial attacks

With HMS and MIT faculty, Zittrain and Bowers co-author report in Science Journal

medical machine-learning systems may be uniquely susceptible to attacks

Mar 25, 2019

Adversarial attacks on medical AI: A health policy challenge

Emerging vulnerabilities demand new conversations

Technical solutions alone aren't enough to address vulnerabilities in machine learning systems

Mar 21, 2019
Just Security

2018 Was A Trying Year For Social Media Platforms–And Their Users

Three Pathways Forward

Data protection standards alone aren’t enough to make social media companies accountable

Dec 27, 2018