Craig Newmark Philanthropies Donates $1.6M to Help Launch Aspen Institute Technology & Cybersecurity Policy Initiatives

November 8, 2018

craigslist founder’s gift will fund policy incubator and explanatory journalism project

Contact: Jon Purves
The Aspen Institute

San Francisco, CA, November 8, 2018 — A generous $1.6 million donation from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the organization of craigslist founder Craig Newmark, will help launch two initiatives of The Aspen Institute’s Cyber & Technology Program that are aimed at educating policy-makers and journalists on pressing cybersecurity challenges. This work includes an incubator for policy entrepreneurs, the Aspen Tech Policy Hub, and a new effort to explain cyber issues through original journalism, @AspenCyber.

This gift, combined with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will allow The Aspen Institute to establish its first on-the-ground presence in the Bay Area. It was announced today at the 3rd annual Aspen Cyber Summit at the California Academy of Sciences.

“Craig Newmark’s gift—his latest in a generous series of donations to help support trustworthy journalism, combat disinformation, and secure voter protection in the digital age—will help ensure that, at a critical moment in our society’s embrace of new technologies, our policy-makers have the knowledge and expertise necessary to make smart, informed decisions,” says John P. Carlin, the chair of The Aspen Institute’s Cyber & Technology Program.

“Internet-based information warfare is the new front where democracies must defend themselves, and that means we need a very active cybersecurity defense,” Newmark says. “The Aspen Institute is helping to shape the future of our country’s security online and ensure that the Web remains a major catalyst for American innovation.”

The new initiatives that Newmark’s gift will help fund grew out of the founding, earlier this year, of the Aspen Cybersecurity Group, a high-level, multi-sector, working collective that is co-chaired by former White House Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX), and IBM Chairman, President, and CEO Ginni Rometty. The Aspen Cybersecurity Group—comprised of 36 cybersecurity thinkers, private sector leaders, and current and former government officials—works to solve complex, cross-sector cybersecurity problems and move theory to action. Through its work, the Aspen Cybersecurity Group has identified the need for better “translation” efforts between policy-makers and technologists, ensuring that each better understands the language, objectives, and principles of the other.

“One of the key goals of our group has been to help build bridges between Washington and Silicon Valley. It’s clear from our work that cybersecurity continues to confound too many policymakers, and that they need more resources to successfully address the biggest problems in cybersecurity,” Aspen Cybersecurity Group co-chair Lisa Monaco says. “We hope these efforts will help fill in the critical gaps we’ve identified and educate both policy-makers and the journalists who cover these important issues.”

Newmark’s gift will provide seed support to the Aspen Tech Policy Hub, a new initiative led by Dr. Betsy Cooper, a respected cybersecurity policy leader who served as the founding Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. The San Francisco-based policy incubator—The Aspen Institute’s first major initiative in the Bay Area—will launch this winter to help grow a new generation of “tech policy entrepreneurs,” providing resources and training through an in-residence fellowship program in the Bay Area, and encouraging new and innovative thinking around the most thorny challenges in technology and public policy.

“Policymakers must comprehend today’s technologies better and innovate solutions that match the speed and nuance of emerging tech challenges, from social media, disinformation, and artificial intelligence to privacy and election security,” Cooper says. “Similarly, too many Valley professionals still fail to grasp the important role of public policy, how to participate in the policy process, and how to explain their work in language that lawmakers and regulators can grasp. The Aspen Tech Policy Hub will apply the innovative process used by Silicon Valley tech incubators to policy-making, giving technologists hands-on experience on how to create real policy impact.”

The journalism effort @aspencyber will also launch later this year, and it will comprise of training working reporters who cover cybersecurity and national security, as well as commissioning original, investigative and explanatory journalism that will be published in cooperation with major news outlets.

As part of this work, The Aspen Institute’s Cyber & Technology Program has hired Breanne Deppisch, most recently the co-writer of the Daily 202 politics newsletter at The Washington Post, and cybersecurity reporter Patrick Howell O’Neill, most recently at CyberScoop. Deppisch, based in Washington, D.C., and O’Neill, based in San Francisco, will co-write an email newsletter, known as “Bandwidth,” aimed at explaining cybersecurity policy debates and providing critical context to unfolding news headlines.


The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

Craig Newmark Philanthropies was created by craigslist founder Craig Newmark to support and connect people and drive broad civic engagement. The organization works to advance people and grassroots organizations that are getting stuff done in areas that include trustworthy journalism, voter protection, gender diversity in technology, and veterans and military families. For more information, please visit:

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