The gift will support the Internet Observatory, a new cross-disciplinary initiative within the Stanford Cyber Policy Center focused on addressing the abuse of today's information technologies, including the spread of disinformation, cybersecurity breaches, and terrorist propaganda. Among other things, the gift will support the recruitment of a team of nearly a dozen people who have the skills and industry experience needed to advance the goals of the initiative.
To be led by Alex Stamos, a research scholar at the university's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a former chief security officer at Facebook, the Observatory's "Trust and Safety Engineering" course will be taught at Stanford this fall, as will Stamos's "HackLab" course, which combines lectures with hands-on learning. The initiative also plans to develop and deliver recommendations to Congress and the major technology firms with respect to protecting the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
"There are many potential uses for machine learning to keep people safe online, but this is something that is often missing from the conversation," said Stamos. "You hear that a company took down five hundred accounts belonging to a certain group that spreads disinformation but don't hear what we can learn from their operations so that we can do better in the future. Our research platform and courses at Stanford intend to bridge that gap."
"The strength of our democracy depends on ensuring that all people have access to accurate information," said craigslist founder Craig Newmark. "The Internet Observatory has a vision for a trustworthy Web, and I'm proud to support their mission-critical work to grapple with disinformation and other ways that bad actors use tech against the common good."