My New Role with Freedom of the Press Foundation

I am honored to have been elected by my fellow board members to serve as president of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) started as a wildly ambitious dream and has become one of the most impactful free speech organizations in the country in just a few short years. My co-founders–including Trevor Timm, the executive director of the organization and its visionary, EFF co-founder and Grateful Dead songwriter JP Barlow, and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg—and I built the organization in the face of severe and sustained attacks on press freedom. The organization was born in response to the extralegal financial blockade against the whistleblower website Wikileaks. 

From the start, we designed FPF to be an organization that could be nimble and fearless. Today, I am so proud to see FPF is willing to take big risks and stand firm in our principles. 

Freedom of the Press Foundation was founded on the belief that independent, investigative journalism is key to a functioning democracy. Journalists help inform and educate the public and hold public figures to account, and, through that work, they’ve changed the course of history. 

To safeguard the future of democracy in the United States, we need to safeguard the rights of journalists. Some of the serious threats facing press freedom right now include:

  • Direct attacks on journalists who are doing their work, including arrests and baseless prosecutions. I’m particularly concerned about the prosecution of reporter Derek Myers in Ohio, who is being charged with federal wiretapping after publishing a recording from a murder trial provided to him by a source.

  • Attempts to undermine the ability of journalists to communicate securely and privately with sources, including targeted surveillance, undermining encryption, and legal attempts to force journalists to disclose their sources. It’s clear that standing up for freedom of speech also requires standing up for strong, end-to-end encryption.
  • Attacks and prosecutions of whistleblowers and sources who work with journalists. My fellow board member, whistleblower Edward Snowden, faces ongoing prosecution under the Espionage Act that prevents him and his young family from returning home to the United States. 

FPF is leading the battle for freedom of speech and the rights of the press, and we need bold strategies to counter these attacks. Here is some of the work we’ll be taking on in 2023:

  • We’re monitoring attacks on journalists in the United States through our Press Freedom Tracker, which includes detailed documentation of attacks on reporters and analysis tools that help researchers identify trends and patterns;

  • We’re helping newsrooms and journalists receive documents securely and anonymously from sources using SecureDrop, FPF’s free software project originally designed by the late Aaron Swartz;

  • We’re engaging in advocacy around the prosecution of Wikileaks editor Julian Assange, whose trial could criminalize routine journalistic activities—creating a serious encroachment on the core press freedom rights of all journalists in the United States;

  • We’re building our advocacy team to take on major legislative battles, like opposing the new defamation legislation in Florida, passing laws to protect reporters against surveillance, fighting against the Espionage Act, and promoting open government laws that reform our broken FOIA system;

  • We’re training journalists and newsrooms in digital security, so that they can better defend themselves against technical threats.

I am so grateful to have been elected as FPF’s board president and for the opportunity to help the organization have an even bigger impact in the coming years. We have an exceptional board, including whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery, renowned actor and activist John Cusack and executive director Trevor Timm. The staff is full of hard working, strategic advocates whose ingenuity and dedication inspire me daily, and FPF’s supporters have made it possible for us to take on all of these ambitious projects. 

If you haven’t done so already, please consider becoming a member of Freedom of the Press Foundation. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Mastodon.  And if you’re curious about FPF and would like to learn more, please check out our annual impact report or reach out—I love talking about it. 

On Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

I spent this summer—and much of the spring and fall—hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Spanning over 2,600 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, the PCT has some 489,000 feet of climbing, which is akin to climbing Mt. Everest from sea level 17 times. I started in early April and finished near the end of October. I was able to hike the whole PCT except for two sections that were closed by fire when I got to them—a 50 mile section in Oregon and 93 miles in northern California. Due to the big wildfire season, I also had to do things out of order: California first, then Washington, and ending with Oregon.

Continue reading “On Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail”

Everything is Terrible so We Made a Podcast

We didn’t have a budget for a podcast when the pandemic hit. We were all locked in our houses reading the news, doomscrolling, trying to buy masks and toilet paper and bags of flour and rice. Hospitals were overflowing in Italy and there were creepy videos released of empty streets in locked-down China. Things seemed pretty bleak. And sometimes when things are bleak, it helps to have a project. 

For me, my boss Cindy, and our colleagues Danny and Jason, that was a podcast.

Continue reading “Everything is Terrible so We Made a Podcast”

The Revolutionary Class

Note: this is a short fiction story I published in Evocations in January 2022. I was thinking about the impact of the gig economy on the body, and specifically on women’s bodies, and I was also thinking about hypocrisy I’ve seen among men who count themselves as revolutionaries and feminists. I was also thinking about the power of friendship, and about how uncertain and hungry those first years after college can feel. I wanted to poke gentle fun and be a little humorous, but also be real about loneliness and despair.

The Revolutionary Class

The same month I gave birth, my roommate quit her internship at the art gallery to become a hypnotherapist. “There is just more opportunity for career growth,” she told me. We were occupying the uncertain eddy of life after graduation, living on top of each other in the smallest studio apartment in Santa Cruz. During the day, we tried to make money scraping paint and pulling weeds on TaskRabbit. In the evenings, she hypnotized me. She wanted the practice, she said. And hadn’t she proofread my entire dissertation, though she had no interest in Trotskyism?

Continue reading “The Revolutionary Class”

What I’m Looking for in My Next Role

On March 1, 2022, I’ll be leaving EFF after eleven amazing years. My intention is to take about a year and a half to travel and do some long-distance hiking.

Sometime in fall 2023, I’ll start having conversations about my next role and applying for jobs. My goal is to not rush this process; my work is incredibly important to me, and so it’s important I find a great organization and a role that suits me.

If you think I might be a good fit for your organization, please drop me an email or message on LinkedIn so I know you might be interested and then we can reconnect in the fall of 2023 to talk about it. I’m intentionally choosing to not have conversations about my next role now because I don’t want to fall into the trap of spending my sabbatical thinking about my next job or in job interview mode.

At this stage of my career, I am optimizing for purpose. I like knowing that I’m having a big, positive impact in the world. If I’m going to be doing something for 8+ hours every day, it should be work that makes me proud and makes the world better. I have so many passions; civil liberties, combatting surveillance, financial inclusion and privacy, nonprofit management, defending whistleblowers, blockchain & decentralization, press freedom, feminism, animal rights, and preserving public lands are all issues I’d be delighted to work on.

I’m specifically looking for two things: an awesome organizational culture and a place where my unique skills will be a force multiplier. When I mean awesome org culture, I mean a creative, low-drama, high-output team that’s aligned on its mission. Life is too short for office politics. Though, I will admit that some of the most fulfilling moments in my career have been walking into a team that was in disarray and helping them turn things around so that they were effective and collaborative….so I guess I’m also open to that as well.

Finally, I currently live in a suburb of Sacramento, CA. I love it here. I’d be open to a move back to the San Francisco Bay Area if I need to for the right role, but my preference is to find a role that will let me stay near Sacramento. I’m not open to relocating outside of California.

If you’d like to stay in touch, please connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m also on Twitter. Thank you.

Black hoodies, big smiles. I will miss the EFF team. CC-by EFF

Leaving a Dream Job to Pursue Some Life Goals

March against Mass Surveillance, CC-by EFF

The last two years have been an awakening for me. The global pandemic made me take stock of my own life and think more deeply about my mortality. Undergoing ankle surgery forced me to take months away from running and made me confront how my body is already aging and breaking down in ways that are irreversible. Then last fall, my dear friend and colleague Elliot Harmon died of cancer at the age of 40.

I’m a committed atheist. I don’t think there’s some other secret life waiting for me after I die. This life, whatever I do with it, is the only shot I’ve got. And for years, I’ve focused so much of my energy on work that I let time with my loved ones, including my life partner and my chosen family of friends, slide into the edges of the days. I’ve repeatedly put off dreams of long distance hiking and visiting places like Thailand, Alaska, and the Mediterranean because it was always the wrong time to go. I’ve tried to squeeze as much backpacking and travel into long weekends and midweek camping as possible, but many of my dreams don’t fit into a long weekend.

So I’m moving my adventure plans to the top of my to-do list, and quitting my job to take 18 months to travel, hike, meditate, and figure out who I am outside of work. I’m calling it a sabbatical, but in some ways it’s more of a career intermission. (And yes, I’ll be looking for a job in 2023.)

Flying a blimp over the NSA data center in Utah, CC-by EFF

I’m grateful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had working for EFF in the last 11 years—from launching the very first Tor Challenge to flying a blimp over the NSA data center in Utah, from the SOPA blackout to a march on Washington. While those flashy events make for the best stories, I’m perhaps more grateful for the experience of walking into an office everyday filled with people who were genuinely brilliant and committed to working together to defend digital rights. I’m grateful to have worked on fascinating topics with some of the top legal and technical minds in the world, and to have learned from outstanding writers and editors. I am also honored to have hired so many fantastic advocates early in their careers, and then watched them go on to accomplish amazing things.

My last few years at EFF, I left the activism director role and took on the role of Chief Program Officer, which is a largely internal role guiding the programmatic teams in being more effective in their work, offering day-to-day management of the organization, and supporting the team directors. There aren’t many exciting stories from this time, but I’m especially grateful for how much I learned about organizational development, fundraising, navigating complex human resources issues, strategy, and building consensus. Plus, I’ll be prepared the next time I need to lead a nonprofit through a global pandemic.

Eleven years at EFF have indelibly changed me. I’m grateful for the work I’ve done, the colleagues I’ve learned from, and the sense that I’ve made a big difference in the world. It’s honestly terrifying to walk away from a dream job knowing that I won’t be able to undo this decision. But it also feels like the right thing.

Often, doing the right thing is a bit terrifying

Life is fleeting and precious and also small. Let’s not defer dreams, whether they are quaint or wild. When I look back on my life, I want to know I was kind to others and that I approached my dreams with conviction and fearlessness. And while it’s unrealistic to cross everything off a bucket list because I’m always adding more, it’ll still be fun to spend a year and a half trying.

Delivering petitions against mass surveillance

On grief

My friend Elliot Harmon died three months ago, taken by cancer at the age of 40. We wrote about it on the EFF blog, detailing his accomplishments, what he fought for, how much he meant to all of us. We are a community in mourning, and we are gathering in a few days for his funeral. 

And me, I still have all these questions that rattle around in my head. Like, what’s it all for?

What’s any of it for? Why are we here? How can we measure the worth of a life, the worth of Elliot’s life or my life or anyone’s? I feel foolish asking these sleepless philosophical questions that have plagued people since the beginning of time, but maybe I feel even more foolish for not asking. Three months after Elliot’s death, I feel like I’m still staring into the void, my pockets turned inside-out.

Because I want it to make sense. I want there to be some grand calculus that says: yes, Elliot died younger than he should have. Yes, half his life was taken from him, and his family and wife had to suffer his loss, our community had to lose him. But in the end, it was worth it somehow. Because he lived so much in those brief years. He accomplished so much, and touched so many people. I want to tell myself that he died young but he had a whole life, a huge life, just in half the time—like one of those podcasts you listen to on double speed.

That’s the math of mourning. It’s trying to make sense of something insensible, to reason out a tragedy. As if cancer were some fortune cookie with a special message about the meaning of life. 

Sometimes I think people more or less waste huge chunks of their lives just skimming through the days on auto-pilot, a jumble of automated reactions and animalistic needs, ego and consumption. The impact of any given person on the planet—ecologically, economically—is negative, on average, and yet we can make excuses that we ourselves brought something of value. We tell ourselves that love and relationships are as important—no, more important—than accomplishing anything truly meaningful, and isn’t that a consoling thought? 

I think about Elliot’s brief life, and I think: he stood for something. He used his time on earth to champion a set of principles grounded in access to knowledge and freedom of thought and expression. He woke up every day and used his skills to advance this movement.

He was also intellectually curious and compassionate to a fault, a weird mix of self-confidence and humility, and did I mention he was a marvelous writer?  So it wasn’t merely that he fought for something. It’s that he actually fought well. He was good at fighting for something. 

And I keep circling back to that. There’s some important recipe in there, and I think that those two pieces—fighting for something, and being remarkably good at fighting for something—are helping me make sense of this puzzle of what the heck it means to do something with your life. It’s not enough, and it’s not finished, but it’s something. 

Ankle Surgery Recovery: Running and the Arthrex InternalBrace for Lateral Ankle Instability

On July 15, I underwent surgery to address years of unresolved ankle instability. After meeting two different surgeons, I opted for the generally well-regarded Internal Brace surgery from Arthrex. In this procedure, a surgeon shortens up and reattaches ligaments in the ankle (called a Brostrom repair) and then adds an additional brace that acts as a seatbelt for the ligaments. My surgeon was Dr. Kruelen of UC Davis, and I would recommend him to other runners. 

In this blog post, I’ll offer a detailed overview of my running before the surgery, the first few days after surgery, and my return to exercise. Hopefully it will be a helpful resource to other people considering this surgery. 

I am writing this 5 months post-surgery. Last weekend, I ran a 5K with a friend, and I did a 5 mile interval run on Monday and a 5 mile threshold run on Wednesday. I am not back to the mileage or the speed I was at pre-surgery, but every week I’m stronger. 

Feel free to jump to my detailed overview of exactly when I was allowed to return to various forms of exercise —I know that’s what I was searching for when I was considering this surgery.

Continue reading “Ankle Surgery Recovery: Running and the Arthrex InternalBrace for Lateral Ankle Instability”

For the Decentralized Web

I’m joining the board of the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW). I want to tell you about the project’s mission, what I hope to bring to the Board, and what we’ll be focusing on this first year.

The Mission and Purpose of the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web

The mission of FFDW is “to ensure the permanent preservation of humanity’s most important information by stewarding the development of open source software and open protocols for decentralized data storage and retrieval networks.”

I love that the organization is committed to the long-term preservation of humanity’s most important knowledge. In the digital age, everything can be preserved, but how well are we actually doing it? Where forward-thinking projects like the Internet Archive and Wikimedia are committed to preserving the historical web and encyclopedic knowledge, Filecoin can help spread that burden: creating a system that could allow data to be archived for long periods of time in a reliable but distributed manner.

We especially need this because right now, file storage is basically a monopoly. Much of the modern Internet relies on a single file service – Amazon Web Services—to store and serve literally billions of websites and applications. This means a single corporation—with an agenda, narrow economic incentives, and little accountability—has a powerful ability to shut down access to vast swaths of human information. And we’ve seen the perils of that, including when Amazon Web Services suffered blackouts and hunks of the most popular Internet services were unavailable for long stretches. Centralization of this sort is dangerous and short-sighted. Thanks to the ingenuity of Filecoin developers, we now have new models for thinking about large-scale, distributed, incentivized data storage—so future competitors to Amazon Web Services have a chance at thriving and surviving.

Notably, FFDW doesn’t mention “Filecoin” anywhere in its mission. That’s because FFDW is not about promoting a single blockchain project. Instead, FFDW sees decentralized file storage as part of a larger ecosystem of developers, projects, advocates, and policies that work together to build a future that is more decentralized, more accountable to users, and more resistant to censorship. Filecoin is a key and important part of that, but we must also support the future of the decentralized web overall.

Continue reading “For the Decentralized Web”

The Selective Prosecution of Julian Assange

This post was originally published over on EFF’s Deeplinks blog, and is cross-posted here.

As the extradition hearing for Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange unfolds, it is increasingly clear that the prosecution of Assange fits into a pattern of governments selectively enforcing laws in order to punish those who provoke their ire. As we see in Assange’s case and in many others before this, computer crime laws are especially ripe for this form of politicization.

The key evidence in the U.S. government’s cybercrime conspiracy allegations against Assange is a brief conversation between Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning in which the possibility of cracking a password is discussed, Manning allegedly shares a snippet of that password with Assange, and Assange apparently attempts, but fails, to crack it.  While breaking into computers and cracking passwords in many contexts is illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, few prosecutors would ever bother to bring a case for such an inconsequential activity as a failed attempt to reverse a hash. But the government has doggedly pursued charges against Assange for 10 years, perhaps because they fear that prosecuting Assange for publishing leaked documents is protected by the First Amendment and is a case they are likely to lose.  

Continue reading “The Selective Prosecution of Julian Assange”