Former CISA Director Chris Krebs, who joins the organization as senior fellow, to chair
$3.25M in support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies fuels this effort to quell the information emergency as well as other cybersecurity and tech policy initiatives
Contact: Carner Derron
Marketing and Communications Manager, Aspen Digital
Washington, DC, January 13, 2021 — Amid a period of unprecedented challenge to American democracy, Aspen Digital, the Aspen Institute’s program on the intersection of media, technology, and security, and the Aspen Cybersecurity Group are launching a new commission to examine the nation’s public information crisis. The effort is funded as part of a new $3.25 million in support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the giving organization of the founder of craigslist and Aspen Digital’s biggest supporter.
As part of the new effort, Christopher C. Krebs, the founding director of DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), will join Aspen Digital as its first Senior Newmark Fellow in Cybersecurity Policy and chair the new bipartisan commission.
Last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol provides a stark example of the real-life dangers that disinformation campaigns pose when they penetrate public discourse. These falsities have fragmented shared realities, with serious negative effects on issues from politics to business to health and safety. Over the next six months, the Commission on Information Disorder will develop both short- and long-term recommendations for how government, the private sector, and civil society should respond to and position themselves amid this modern-day crisis of faith in key institutions.
“America faces a crisis of information on multiple fronts. Disinformation isn’t just a news or social media problem. It can be literal life and death, as we’re seeing daily amid this pandemic and after last week’s events at the Capitol,” said Krebs. “We can’t ignore this problem without risking a pretty significant breakdown of democracy and civil society. Addressing and minimizing the threat from mis- and disinformation in daily life will require bringing everyone together—government, the private sector, and civil society—and I look forward to having the chance to do that at the Aspen Institute.”
Over the coming weeks, Krebs will identify and recruit a co-chair and the members of the commission, which will include researchers, tech leaders, media specialists, private sector practitioners, and policy makers.
“The stakes in the battle for truth have never been higher—the very ability of American democracy to function—but this also means there’s serious opportunity to reimagine how our country approaches civil dialogue,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. “This is how people who believe in America can help protect the country, and I’ve renewed my support for Aspen Digital because they get stuff done and I believe they are the right organization to help lead this charge.”
A longtime leader in the field, Krebs spent nearly three years progressing DHS’s cybersecurity work. During his time there, he served as the Senate-confirmed Founding Director of CISA, where he helped combat election-related disinformation and oversee the security of the 2020 national elections, which DHS later concluded were “the most secure in American history.” He also managed systemic risk to the nation’s critical infrastructure. CISA’s election-focused “Rumor Control” website was widely praised for providing reliable, accurate information and for rapidly debunking both mis- and disinformation.
The Commission on Information Disorder is the latest initiative to grow out of the Aspen Cybersecurity Group, of which Krebs is a member. The Group stands as the Institute’s cross-sector, public-private cybersecurity forum, founded in 2017 by former White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco; Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX); and IBM Chairman, President, and CEO Ginni Rometty.
In addition to fueling this new effort to quell the information crisis, the $3.25 million in funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies will support a number of other Aspen Digital cybersecurity and tech policy efforts, including $1 million for the Aspen Tech Policy Hub, a West Coast policy incubator that is training a new generation of tech policy entrepreneurs. In addition to supporting the Hub’s fellowship and technology training efforts, a portion of those funds will also be used to launch a new challenge competition to reward innovative cross-sector solutions to preventing mis- and disinformation and improving cybersecurity.
“Our program sits at the intersection of all things media, technology, and the internet, a virtual space that is increasingly impacting the real world,” said Vivian Schiller, Executive Director of Aspen Digital. “Craig Newmark’s vote of confidence comes right when our vision for an informed, just, and equitable society is needed most, and we are deeply grateful for the opportunities his support spurs, including this vital new commission.”
In fall 2020, Aspen Digital hosted a series of off-the-record briefings to help prepare every major US newsroom and tech platform for potential hack-and-leak operations and a contested post-election environment. Out of these meetings, the program developed topline recommendations and published them in the Columbia Journalism Review. This caliber of foresight and influence will be infused throughout the new initiative on disinformation.
Aspen Digital empowers policy-makers, civic organizations, companies, and the public to be responsible stewards of technology and media in the service of an informed, just, and equitable world. A program of the Aspen Institute, we shine a light on urgent global issues across cybersecurity, the information ecosystem, emerging technology, the industry talent pipeline, tech and communications policy, and urban innovation. We then turn ideas to action and develop human solutions to these digital challenges.
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.