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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Social Media Platforms: Influence and Ethics

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Session Description

The public square has shifted to the digital space. As traditional and local news organizations struggle, social media companies have become curators of information for communities everywhere, and thrived. With large swaths of the globe accessing news on social media, what is the responsibility of a platform—if any—to combat disinformation? What is the balance between this responsibility and freedom of expression? Join us to discuss the future of the digital public square, and debate the role of social media companies in public discourse.

When | Where

1:30 PM - 2:45 PM Wednesday, April 11 Pyramid Room (TBEC)


Panel Discussion

Session leaders

  • Tim Hwang Speaker
    Director, Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, Harvard University
    Tim Hwang is Director of the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, a joint MIT-Harvard effort to ensure the development of automation and machine learning in the public interest. His current research focuses on developing responses to the threat of disinformation campaigns online, and the geopolitical aspects of computational power and machine learning hardware. Previously, he served as the global public policy lead for AI and machine learning at Google, and led Intelligence & Autonomy, a project exploring the social impact of intelligent systems based at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York. Dubbed “The Busiest Man on the Internet” by Forbes Magazine, his work has previously appeared in New York Times, the Washington Post, Wired, The Atlantic, and the Wall Street Journal.
  • Connie Moon Sehat Moderator
    NewsFrames Director and Contributor, Credibility Coalition, Global Voices
    Connie's current two roles allow her to address the challenges of perspectives and misinformation around news quality. First, as Director of the NewsFrames Initiative at Global Voices (, she is leading the development of resources and software for collaborative media analysis that includes datasets for trends in media framing. Second, as a Contributor to the Credibility Coalition, she participates in the development of an indicator schema for reliable information and the testing of application in news articles. Overall, Dr. Sehat's work has focused on the intersections of computing and democratic life, whether dissertating in German history, developing International Space Station software, or working on projects like the bibliographic Zotero (, the New Orleans Research Collaborative (, and ELMO (election monitoring and more at Previously, she has worked for The Carter Center, Emory University, and The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.
  • Kelly Born Speaker
    Program Officer, Madison Initiative, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
    Kelly Born serves as one of two Program Officers for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s US Democracy portfolio. The Democracy Initiative supports organizations from across the ideological spectrum that are working to address the the democratic crisis the US currently faces. Kelly oversees grantmaking in areas including campaigns and elections, civic engagement, media and journalism, and digital disinformation. Before helping to launch the Hewlett Foundation’s democracy work, Kelly helped to launch the foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group, which is aimed at improving both Hewlett’s own internal philanthropic strategy, and the field of philanthropy more broadly. Prior to joining the Hewlett Foundation, Kelly worked as a strategy consultant with the Monitor Institute, a nonprofit consulting firm, where she led strategic planning efforts at a number of large US foundations. Earlier in her career, she consulted extensively with the private sector, nonprofits, and governments in the U.S., Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe.
  • Director, Alliance for Securing Democracy
    Laura Rosenberger is director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). Before she joined GMF, she was foreign policy advisor for Hillary for America, where she coordinated development of the campaign’s national security policies, messaging, and strategy. Prior to that, she served in a range of positions at the State Department and the White House’s National Security Council (NSC). As chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and as later, then-Deputy National Security Advisor Blinken’s senior advisor, she counseled on the full range of national security policy. In her role at the NSC, she also managed the interagency Deputies Committee, the U.S. government’s senior-level interagency decision-making forum on our country’s most pressing national security issues. Laura also has extensive background in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Northeast Asia. She served as NSC director for China and Korea, managing and coordinating U.S. policy on China and the Korean Peninsula, and in a variety of positions focused on the Asia-Pacific region at the Department of State, including managing U.S.–China relations and addressing North Korea’s nuclear programs. She also served as special assistant to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns, advising him on Asia-Pacific affairs and on nonproliferation and arms control issues. Laura first joined the State Department as a Presidential Management Fellow. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She received her master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution from American University’s School of International Service, and received her bachelors’ degrees with honors from Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College in sociology, psychology, and women’s studies. She is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, and is an avid Steelers fan.