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The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Former Facebook executive turned critic joins top civil rights group

The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Happy Thursday! Be sure to check out today's Washington Post Live event on data privacy with Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).

Below: Advertisers flee Twitter after ads were displayed next to posts by users seeking child abuse material, and rights groups clash with Meta over a report on human rights in India. First:

Former Facebook executive turned critic joins top civil rights group

Since leaving her role as Facebook’s head of election integrity for political ads in 2018, Yael Eisenstat has emerged as one of the most prominent critics of how the social media giant and its peers tackle hate speech and misinformation. Now she’s turning to her next act.

Next month, Eisenstat will join the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a major civil rights group, to serve as vice president and lead its technology unit, a prominent perch that will allow her to continue to hold tech companies’ feet to the fire.

In an exclusive interview announcing the move, Eisenstat called the role a “natural fit” given the organization’s long history combating hate and extremism online and offline, and her years of advocacy and activism calling for a stronger safety focus out of Silicon Valley.

“It's really just taking the work that I've always been passionate about and marrying it up to an organization that has the capacity to make real change,” she told me Wednesday.

In the new role, Eisenstat will steer the nonprofit’s Center for Technology and Society (CTS), which researches and releases findings on the prevalence of extremist, hateful and misleading conduct across major platforms.

CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement that the hire shows ADL is “doubling down on our work to keep online companies transparent and accountable for the content they host.” 

Eisenstat said that beyond scrutinizing the role digital platforms may play in exacerbating hateful content, she will be focused on figuring out what “accountability mechanisms” the group can use to “shine a light” on issues and bring about change at the companies. She also said it’s important to look beyond what material companies are hosting and consider systemic issues.

“I think it is really important to focus on the policies and tools of these companies as opposed to just the actual content they host,” she said.

Eisenstat brings a deep pool of experience to the organization, spanning roles in the tech industry, federal government and as an activist and researcher.

Before joining Facebook for a six-month stint in 2018, Eisenstat served as an officer for the CIA and as a special adviser in the Obama White House, focusing on national security issues.

She later joined the Center for Humane Technology, a nonprofit founded by Silicon Valley veterans, as a global policy adviser and served at research outfits including the Berggruen Institute and most recently the Institute for Security and Technology. She’s also been a member of the so-called “Real Facebook Oversight Board,” a group of company critics who draw their name from the company's official review board.

Eisenstat could also play a key role in shaping the group’s growing policy portfolio on tech accountability issues and expand its connections to the White House, where she served as an adviser to President Biden when he was vice president.

“We do work with policymakers and legislators to help tackle some of these challenges. I'm sure I'll have a role,” said Eisenstat, who in the past has visited Congress and met with lawmakers to discuss Facebook's approach to political ads.

Eisenstat said policymakers in Washington are becoming “more and more sophisticated” in their approach to the tech industry, but that there’s more work to be done.

“I'm very happy to see more effort going into transparency and oversight questions so that we can get the information and data needed to be able to actually write smart, actionable laws,” she said. “We're not there yet, to be clear, but I think we're getting closer.”

Eisenstat said she will also lead efforts to engage with tech companies to try to find common ground, which will always “be the first goal.”

She offered the issue of how platforms handle Holocaust denial material as an example, seemingly referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“When you have somebody who is in charge of the biggest platform in the world not understanding what Holocaust denial means and not understanding the ramifications of that, that's the type of place where ADL could have a really positive role in helping them understand why that’s so consequential and figuring out what the right policies around that might be,” she said.

Zuckerberg forcefully defended Facebook users' right to post Holocaust denial material in a 2018 interview. The company stood by the policy for years despite facing broad criticism, including from the ADL, before reversing it in 2020.

But she also signaled that she’s prepared to be nimble if engagement fails.

“Then, of course, there's the point where if you've gone as far as you can … to help any particular company then the next question is, ‘What are the next levers of influence?’ … That is an assessment I believe as a team we will always have to make,” she said.

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Advertisers condemn Twitter after ads found near child sexual abuse material

Cybersecurity group Ghost Data found hundreds of Twitter accounts that openly shared or asked for such material, and some major advertisers’ ads were displayed alongside those posts, Reuters’s Sheila Dang and Katie Paul report.

“We’re horrified,” Cole Haan brand president David Maddocks told Reuters. “Either Twitter is going to fix this, or we’ll fix it by any means we can, which includes not buying Twitter ads.” (Twitter displayed a promoted tweet for Cole Haan next to a tweet by a user who said they were “trading teen/child” content, Reuters reported.)

Before Reuters published its story, Twitter told advertisers that it had “discovered that ads were running within Profiles that were involved with publicly selling or soliciting child sexual abuse material.” Twitter spokesperson Celeste Carswell told the outlet that Twitter “has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation.” Twitter is working with advertisers and partners to investigate and ensure that a similar situation doesn’t happen again, Carswell said.

Meta privately says it didn’t publish India hate speech investigation after security concerns

Audio recordings show that Meta human rights executive Iain Levine told groups that Meta’s human rights team wanted to release more than a four-page summary on the investigation, but couldn’t after top executives decided “that it was not possible to do so for security reasons,” the Wall Street Journal’s Newley Purnell reports.

Rights groups told Meta executives that the decision appeared to show that the company didn’t take the work seriously and undermined a good-faith collaboration, Purnell reports. The company’s decision not to release the full report is “a slap in my face and my people’s face who have endured so much hate speech on this platform,” said an attendee of a briefing who said she was an Indian Muslim researcher. “We want a release of this report — now,” she said.

Meta declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal.

Antitrust advocates pin hopes on lame-duck period

Supporters of a bill to block tech giants from favoring their own products and services over those of their rivals gathered last week as “an opportunity to gather strength for one final legislative push” to turn the bill into law between midterm elections in November and the beginning of new lawmakers’ terms in January, Bloomberg News’s Emily Birnbaum and Anna Edgerton report. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attended the event, and the federal government’s most powerful antitrust officials — FTC Chair Lina Khan and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter — also came after testifying on Capitol Hill, Birnbaum and Edgerton report.

“If the legislation doesn’t pass by the end of this Congress, it’s unlikely to make it to the floor for several years, particularly if there’s a new GOP majority in the House, as polls have predicted,” Birnbaum and Edgerton write. “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California who is in line to become speaker should his party win control, has vehemently opposed the bill, calling it partisan overreach.”

Inside the industry

Amazon gives the Kindle a stylus and has a new way to track your sleep (Geoffrey A. Fowler, Heather Kelly and Chris Velazco)

Russia demands Apple explain VK removal from App Store (Reuters)

Agency scanner

Privacy advocates want the FTC to take on invasive daycare apps (CyberScoop)


AI can now create any image in seconds, bringing wonder and danger (Nitasha Tiku)


  • The House Science Committee holds a hearing on artificial intelligence today at 10:30 a.m.
  • Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, discuss privacy legislation at a Washington Post Live event today at 11 a.m.
  • Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo discusses semiconductor legislation at an event hosted by the Global Tech Security Commission today at 11:15 a.m.

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