September 30 marks my last day as the inaugural Executive Director of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. Effective today, Dr. Erin Saltman will serve as Interim Executive Director pending selection of a permanent ED. I know the diverse community of GIFCT stakeholders will show Erin and the GIFCT staff the same level of support and encouragement that I was shown throughout my tenure.
My two years and three months as GIFCT’s ED has been a remarkable personal and professional experience. I have learned a tremendous amount from the diverse community of GIFCT stakeholders and I will take that knowledge and insight with me as I transition to other work in this space. I believe deeply in GIFCT’s mission to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms. As importantly, I believe that this work must take place in a multistakeholder context if we are to make durable, sustainable progress toward our shared goal of a safer, healthier internet for all.
Among the GIFCT milestones and achievements of which I am most proud, I would highlight:
- The successful start up of an independent non-profit organization in the midst of a global pandemic that meant our staff began their jobs remotely across multiple cities and time zones.
- The recruitment and hiring of a professional staff of world class experts dedicated to GIFCT’s mission and committed to making the internet safer and healthier.
- The ongoing work with GIFCT’s Independent Advisory Committee (IAC) to bring a diverse set of stakeholder perspectives and views into efforts to set strategy and direction for the organization.
- The embedding of a human rights informed perspective into every aspect of GIFCT’s work, drawing on a foundational Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) that will hold GIFCT to account for its performance in this regard.
- The expansion of GIFCT’s membership to include a more diverse set of technology companies reflecting many of the different ways in which terrorists and violent extremists can exploit the internet.
- The creation of a flexible and agile Incident Response Framework (IRF) that has had real impact on limiting the harmful online effects of incidents of mass violence or murder involving perpetrator-produced content.
- The ongoing work to make GIFCT’s Hash Sharing Data Base (HSDB) more reflective and inclusive of the diverse forms that terrorist or violent extremist produced content take today, with increased transparency around that important work.
- The sustained GIFCT-funded effort through the Global Network on Extremism and Technology (GNET) to provide cutting edge research and analysis to support technology companies as they address terrorist and violent extremist attempts to exploit their platforms.
- The organization of multistakeholder Working Groups to provide a venue for working on the hardest and most intractable issues that we collectively face in this challenging space.
There are some themes that run through each of these accomplishments. First, while GIFCT has achieved some important results, there remains so much more work to be done across all of these areas. Second, progress in a multistakeholder context is rarely easy or linear. It requires patient, persistent, respectful engagement between and among communities that bring very diverse perspectives and who define progress and success very differently. Third, the positive trajectory of GIFCT over these past two years can only be sustained if there is concrete support for GIFCT’s work from each of these diverse communities, whether that is the technology sector, civil society, government or the academic and research community.
In a few weeks time, I will be returning to government service here in the United States, in a role that will still keep me very directly involved in efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism. As I return to government, I am more committed than ever to whole-of-society solutions to our terrorism and extremism challenges. Be assured that I will be watching the continued growth and progress of GIFCT with more than passing interest as I continue to believe deeply in the mission, as well as in the team of professionals working at GIFCT to achieve that mission.
With best wishes,