The Cyber Policy Center Turns Two

A look back at the launch of the CPC and the work of our programs
cyber turns two graphic

Two years ago, in June of 2019, and under the leadership of founding co-directors, Nathaniel Persily and Dan Boneh, the Cyber Policy Center was established at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).  As part of this launch, the Center released Securing American Elections: Prescriptions for Enhancing the Integrity and Independence of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and Beyond, a report authored by Stanford experts on cybersecurity, Russia, social media companies and American electoral regulations. The report, made available to the public, presented 45 policy recommendations to help U.S. lawmakers and technology leaders stop potential threats to the American electoral process. 

With the 2020 election just 18 months away, the Center’s launch and work could not have been more timely. The 2016 election had revealed new ways disinformation was spreading and the danger it presented to elections and democracy. At the launch event on June 6, FSI Director Michael McFaul spoke of the critical need to prevent future interference, from concrete legislative acts to what steps online platforms could take, even in the absence of legislation. 

The Center launched with four programs. Each program has a unique focus, mission, and research area, though all complement the Cyber Policy Center’s study of issues at the nexus of technology, governance, and public policy. 

The Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) is a cross-disciplinary program of research, teaching, and policy engagement for the study of abuse in current information technologies, with a focus on social media. The Observatory was created to learn about the abuse of the internet in real time, and to translate our research discoveries into training and policy innovations for the public good.

Recent Work from SIO: The Long Fuse: Misinformation and the 2020 Election 

The Program on Democracy and the Internet (PDI) works toward a world in which digital technologies support rather than subvert democracy by maximizing the benefits and minimizing the threats through changes in policy, technology, and social and ethical technological norms. PDI engages in research on how digital technologies are impacting democracy in order to inform and educate decision-makers in the field, including the next generation of technologists, business leaders, and policymakers. The program is led by Nathaniel Persily, Rob Reich, and Francis Fukuyama.

Recent Work from PDI: The Virus and the Vote: Administering the 2020 Election in a Pandemic 

The Program on Geopolitics, Technology, and Governance (GTG) dedicates its work and policy-oriented research on the political, legal, and economic implications of digital innovation and global competition. The program is also home to the DigiChina Project, a collaborative effort to understand China’s digital policy development, with a focus on data governance, artificial intelligence, internet law, and technology in geopolitics. GTG is led by Andrew Grotto.

Recent Work from GTG and DigiChina: With Auto Data, China Buckles In for Security and Opens Up for Future Tech (Stanford DigiChina)

The Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi) works to inspire policy and governance innovations that reinforce democratic values, universal human rights, and the rule of law in the digital realm. Its purpose is to serve as a collaboration hub for the development of norms, guidelines, and laws that enhance freedom, security, and trust in the global digital ecosystem. The Incubator’s ultimate goal is to help governments and private sector technology companies establish norms, policies, and processes that allow citizens and society to reap the upside benefits of technology for economic development and the exercise of universal human rights, while protecting against the downside risks. The Incubator is headed by Eileen Donahoe and Larry Diamond.

Recent Work from GDPi: Digital Activism and Authoritarian Adaptation in the Middle East (four-day conference)

Since launch, the Cyber Policy Center has added two more programs:

The Program on Platform Regulation (PPR) focuses on current and emerging law governing internet platforms, with an emphasis on laws’ consequences for the rights and interests of Internet users and the public. PPR’s work and research is informed by the belief in a need for thoughtful work on laws that govern internet platforms with a goal of collaborating with decision makers who have the greatest expertise in the operational realities of the tech platforms. The program is led by Daphne Keller. 

Recent Work from PPR: Amplification and Its Discontents: Why regulating the reach of online content is hard (Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University)

The Social Media Lab (SML) works to understand psychological and interpersonal processes in social media. The team specializes in using computational linguistics and behavioral experiments to understand how the words we use can reveal psychological and social dynamics, such as deception and trust, emotional dynamics, and relationships. The Lab is led by Jeff Hancock.

Recent Work from SML: Technology is changing how we talk to each other, with Jeff Hancock, PhD  (American Psychological Association)

We’d like to thank our partners who have allowed us to flourish and grow, at a time when it has never been more important; our work could not have happened without their generous support. 

Charles Koch Foundation


Craig Newmark Philanthropies

Department of Defense

Felicis Ventures

Ford Foundation 

Hewlett Foundation

The International Center for Not- for-Profit Law

Internet Society

National Institute for Standards and Technology  

National Science Foundation

Omidyar Network

Stanford HAI

Stanford McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society

We hope to be back on campus soon, offering in-person events, bootcamps, seminars, and more. Until then we hope you’ll continue to follow the work of the CPC.


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Cyber Policy Center | Global Digital Policy Incubator | Stanford Internet Observatory | DigiChina