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Opportunity: Assembly: Disinformation Staff Fellow

We are seeking two employee fellows to join the Assembly: Disinformation Program.

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University seeks two extraordinary full-time, salaried employee fellows to join the Assembly: Disinformation Program. The fellows will coordinate and work closely with a group of experts in the field, including Berkman Klein Center faculty and fellows, senior staff, and outside specialists from industry, academia, and civil society to tackle disinformation in the digital public sphere from a cybersecurity perspective. The fellowship provides the opportunity to develop substantive and scholarly work on disinformation as a core member of the Assembly: Disinformation team and as a member of broader Berkman Klein academic community. 

The fellows will join a program team that comprises some of the most influential scholars working on Internet policy and disinformation. Working collaboratively with Berkman Klein faculty, staff, fellows, and partners, including Principal Investigator Jonathan Zittrain, the fellows will contribute substantively to the program and assist with managerial support.

Each fellow’s primary responsibilities will be to support the program’s research efforts, join the Assembly team as a strategic thought partner on the development and execution of the Assembly tracks, and contribute to the organization and generation of the program’s outputs, including the Assembly Forum, a series of workshops of leading experts and publications contributing timely insights to the mainstream disinformation discourse. In addition, the fellows will contribute in terms of substance, management, execution to the Assembly Fellowship, an intensive four-month fellowship for technologists, managers, and policymakers to confront problems related to disinformation by creating collaborative provocations or prototypes that offer tangible ways forward to better understand, counter, and draw attention to disinformation campaigns, and the Assembly Student Fellowship, a cohort of Harvard students from a range of disciplines, who will convene for problem-solving seminars and collaborate on student-led projects that tackle real-world disinformation problems.

In this capacity, the fellows will cultivate and support relationships among Harvard faculty and experts in related fields, and engage with a range of stakeholders in broader research and policy circles; plan, communicate, and execute internal and external meetings and events; produce internal updates and reports; conduct research and contribute to program publications; coordinate public-facing communications in conjunction with the Berkman Center’s communications manager; provide additional support as needed; and potentially supervise research assistants and summer interns involved in the program.

The fellowship position is an excellent opportunity for individuals who wish to expand their knowledge and capacity in the fields of disinformation, cybersecurity and Internet policy, and is well suited for candidates who wish to pursue their own scholarship in this area while also contributing to the work of the Berkman Klein Center. The fellows will be part of the intellectual community at the Berkman Klein Center, which includes a wide range of people working on issues related to the Internet and society, including scholars, practitioners, innovators, and others committed to understanding and advancing the public interest. The Berkman Klein Center fellowship program aims to encourage and support fellows in an inviting and rigorous intellectual environment, with community activities designed to foster inquiry and collaboration. As a member of this community, the fellows will be able to participate in workshops and events at the Center and across the university, and have frequent opportunities to expand their knowledge of technology, law, and policy.

Each fellowship is a full-time position based in Cambridge, MA ending July 2020, with possible extension based on performance, program needs, and grant funding.

Qualifications

Advanced degree in a relevant field of study, such as law, the social sciences, communication or media, or computation.

Additional Qualifications

Previous experience working in the substantive area of disinformation or developing expertise in a related area is strongly preferred but not required. Previous work experience on complex projects or programs is strongly preferred.

Excellent writing and verbal skills, sound judgment, exceptional ethical standards, and proven ability in interpersonal communication, supervision, and team building are essential. The ideal candidate must be proactive and accountable, and be equipped to manage multiple commitments, competing deadlines, and shifting priorities. Flexibility, adaptability, and the ability to multitask while in a team environment are critical. The fellow must be capable of balancing the many goals of the program, including communications, research, networking, and community building. A successful candidate will be a highly motivated self-starter in order to contribute to the ambitious objectives of the program.

About Assembly Disinformation

This year, Assembly will take up disinformation in the digital public sphere from a cybersecurity perspective, exploring the challenges and possibilities of innovative public and private sector responses to disinformation and related problems of foreign interference.

The program’s three tracks are designed to draw upon each other’s expertise, work, and communities – in disinformation, media policy, intermediaries and platforms, cybersecurity, and other relevant areas – bringing together students, experts from the field, and technologists to better understand, and make progress on, the complex issues of disinformation and foreign interference.  

Why disinformation?

Foreign interference in the 2016 US general election made “fake news” and “disinformation” household terms overnight. The anxiety and uproar in the wake of the election was soon followed by significant civil society and academic efforts around disinformation. Within the past two years, many new projects have considered disinformation from almost every conceivable angle, from journalistic best practices and fact-checking to algorithmic monitoring, variously drawing on cognitive psychology, econometrics, metadata analysis, and even blockchain.

The Berkman Klein Center has itself contributed significantly to this growing field. Yochai Benkler, Rob Faris, and Hal Roberts’s essential work on Network Propaganda, has been hailed by many in the research community and beyond as one of the most rigorous studies of our information ecosystem published to this point. Our colleagues at the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media are building tools aimed at reconfiguring our relationship with social media at the expense of would-be propagandists.

The range and urgency of activity is heartening. It reflects the fact that disinformation is being treated as a truly interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral problem, and there’s clearly no shortage of talent to be engaged. Yet, it’s not entirely clear that a unified operational agenda is emerging from a sea of disparate efforts, not by any fault of those working in the field. The lack of unified agenda in part reflects the complexity of disinformation and the vibrancy of debate around the topic. Several scholars have contributed significant insights; yet different researchers and disciplines have competing conceptualizations of the problems of disinformation, and significantly varying proposals about what to do and who should do it.

We’re jumping in now because when we take the long view on the internet’s growth and development, the digital realm’s inability to cope with disinformation starts to look less like a niche problem and more like symptoms of long-deferred reckonings around intermediary responsibility and the connections between cybersecurity and our information ecosystem. Disinformation has the potential to serve as a forcing function for a conversation – and some resolution – that will be as uncomfortable as it is important.

Assembly won’t be the first program to bring academia’s methodologies and convening power to bear on disinformation, nor will it be the last. We offer our long experience working on the problems and promise of the internet, cybersecurity expertise, deep connections in the public and private sectors, and innovative approaches to cross-sectoral partnership. What we’re aiming for is not a technical hack, an overbroad legislative proposal, or a set of high-level principles, but rather a platform for honest and outcome-oriented conversation and co-building between experts, students, and entities in the disinformation space. Through this process of dialogue and collaboration, we hope to get a few steps closer to understanding what a meaningful alignment of incentives would look like – and how, if at all, it might best be embodied in some form of institutional innovation.

About the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. A diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars, practitioners, technologists, policy experts, and advocates, we seek to tackle the most important challenges of the digital age while keeping a focus on tangible real-world impact in the public interest. Our faculty, fellows, staff and affiliates conduct research, build tools and platforms, educate others, form bridges and facilitate dialogue across and among diverse communities. More information at www.cyber.harvard.edu.

Commitment to Diversity

The work and well-being of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University are strengthened profoundly by the diversity of our network and our differences in background, culture, experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and much more. We actively seek and welcome applications from people of color, women, the LGBTQIA community, and persons with disabilities.

How to Apply

Applicants should email a cover letter that explains interest and motivation in the role, CV, and relevant writing sample to apply@cyber.harvard.edu

To apply, email apply@cyber.harvard.edu