The Sunday Show: The Fall of Afghanistan, and the Tech & Democracy Movement

Justin Hendrix / Aug 22, 2021

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This week's podcast is in two segments. The first is a conversation with Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, about the fall of Kabul and the rise of the Taliban, and the role that digital and social media have and will continue to play there.

And second, we turn to a discussion I had with Emerson’s Atlantic Council college, Rose Jackson, and the Institute for Security Technology’s Vera Zakem, about the nascent pro-democracy effort around tech issues and tech policy around the world, and the challenges it faces.

First, to Afghanistan, where the fall of the Taliban was broadcast around the world by Taliban fighters themselves, sharing photos and selfies as they walked in to official residences and government offices, announcing their victory in the war in Afghanistan. To talk more about the role of social media in their return to power and what to expect in the future, we spoke with DFRLab’s Emerson T. Brooking. Emerson is the coauthor of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, and is an expert in the fields of disinformation, terrorist communication, and internet policy, and recently led an initiative to secure the integrity of the 2020 U.S. election. I caught up with on Thursday of this week. A transcript of our conversation is here.

Second, on to a conversation hosted before Afghanistan took over the headlines, about the future of democracy and its relationship with technology.

My two guests are experts on these subjects. Rose Jackson is an entrepreneur and former diplomat with 15+ years of experience strengthening democracy and defending human rights, leveraging technology for social impact, and building institutions to support democratic activists around the world. Jackson is currently the director of the Democracy & Tech Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. She previously founded and served as CEO of Beacon, a platform leveraging data and marketing technology to make it easier for people to take meaningful civic and political action. Prior to founding her company, Jackson served as a senior policy adviser at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) where she led a presidential transition initiative focused on reforming U.S. support to foreign military and police. During the Obama Administration, Jackson served as the Chief of Staff to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department, and before that as an advisor to Senator Chris Coons on foreign policy and national security issues as a Galloway Fellow.

Vera Zakem is currently a Senior Technology and Policy Advisor at the Institute for Security and Technology and a founder of a mission-driven agency, Zakem Global Strategies. Previously, she led strategy and research at Twitter. She has also worked for a number of national security policy and research organizations, including the CNA Corporation, where she spearheaded initiatives to understand and develop policies to counter disinformation and global malign influence. She is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Tech Advisory Council for Atlas Corps.


Justin Hendrix
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & ...