Guest Lecture: United We Encrypt

Govt 377: Global Cyber Politics


Guest talk: Josh Stearns


Title: United We Encrypt: Internet Freedom and Press Freedom vs Surveillance and Security

Date: 03/01/2016


The internet and other forms of digital technology have always been a double-edged sword, expanding freedom of speech, expression and the press while also enabling surveillance. Similarly, technology has given journalists new tools to cover their communities, connect with their sources and collaborate on their reporting – but it has also helped empower government institutions that oppose journalism, transparency, and accountability. These issues are incredibly complex and interwoven. In the US, the last three years have been an unprecedented series of events that have changed the way we think about emerging technology, digital rights and privacy. As the Internet and mobile phones become increasingly fundamental parts of our daily lives, we have to contend with very real challenges around policy issues and structures that shape how we connect and communicate. That challenge has sparked an incredible grassroots campaign that is making the Internet a political issues in the 2016 elections and beyond.







Short bio of Speaker


Josh Stearns is a journalist, community builder and civic strategist.


Josh directs the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s journalism sustainability project, focused on developing new revenue models for local news rooted in community engagement and creative collaboration.


His past work in journalism, communications, education and advocacy has focused on transforming institutions to be more responsive to and reflective of their community. Through large scale civic projects, coalition building and powerful storytelling Josh has helped newsrooms and nonprofits use cutting edge digital tools to engage deeply with the people they serve.


Prior to joining the Dodge Foundation, Josh spent 7 years running national advocacy campaigns in support of freedom of expression, media diversity and digital rights as Press Freedom Director at Free Press. Prior to that, he directed policy and communications for Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the civic purposes of higher education.


Josh speaks frequently about journalism, civic engagement, ethics and collaborative problem solving at conferences like SXSW, the Online News Association, the Personal Democracy Forum as well as colleges and universities across the United States. His research and reporting have appeared in the Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, PBS MediaShift, Mother Jones, Orion Magazine, BuzzFeed and BoingBoing.


For more than a decade Josh has kept at least one foot in education. He is a Visiting Scholar in the Journalism and Communication Departments at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a lecturer at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and CUNY’s Tow Knight Center for Journalism Entrepreneurship. In the past he has taught at the Center for Public Policy and Administration and the English Department at UMass Amherst.


In 2013 Josh founded, a growing directory of tools for social journalism and verification of eyewitness media. He was awarded Storify of the Year and the Lew Hill Media Ally award for my innovative work in press freedom and digital storytelling. In 2015 Verification Junkie became a founding member of the Frist Draft News coalition, which works to promote more trustworthy journalism.


Stearns was a founding board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and has held board positions with Student Conservation Association, the Valley Land Fund and Educators for Community Engagement. He is currently a board member at Amherst Media and Orion Magazine.