The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University is pleased to announce that Eileen Donahoe has been named by the White House as the inaugural Special Envoy and Coordinator for Digital Freedom, effective September 5, 2023. Donahoe, who has served as the executive director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi), will take a leave of absence from Stanford to serve in this new presidentially created role.
As Special Envoy and Coordinator for Digital Freedom, Donahoe will oversee U.S. efforts to ensure global digital freedom across party lines and geopolitical boundaries, as part of the U.S. Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy.
"I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Donahoe as Special Envoy and Coordinator for Digital Freedom in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy," said U.S. State Department Ambassador at Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy Nathaniel C. Fick. "Promoting digital freedom and a rights-respecting approach to technology diplomacy are central priorities of our Bureau and the State Department. Eileen brings deep expertise and global experience to this role as the Department’s chief advocate to advance online freedoms, digital inclusion, and information integrity."
The Global Digital Policy Incubator serves as a collaboration hub for the development of norms, guidelines, and laws that enhance freedom, security, and trust in the global digital ecosystem. The program reinforces existing frameworks of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and leads in articulation of how to apply these norms and values in a global digital context.
“Eileen Donahoe is the perfect choice to inaugurate the role of Special Envoy for Digital Freedom at the State Department,” said Professor Larry Diamond, GDPi’s principle investigator and the Mosbacher Senior Fellow for Global Democracy. “She brings a record of distinguished service representing the United States at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and deep knowledge of the policy challenges of defending human rights, information integrity, and democratic values in an increasingly digitized world. Few people combine command of the technical issues of digital governance with a commitment to human freedom as passionate as Ambassador Donahoe's. It has been a privilege working with her to develop the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford.”
GDPi will continue its regular operations during Donahoe’s leave of absence. Charles Mok, a digital rights advocate, technologist, and entrepreneur, will stay on as a visiting scholar at the program.
“Eileen is a pioneer in the field of global internet governance and human rights,” said Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. “I’m proud of what she has accomplished here at GDPi, and congratulate her on her new role with the State Department.”
In fall quarter 2024, GDPi will jointly host the fourth Digital Tech Camp with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law on Stanford’s campus. Tech Camp brings together a cohort of civil society advocates to deepen their understanding of digital technologies and policies that threaten civic space, free expression, and privacy. The multi-day training enables participants to engage with technologists and policy experts on issues like internet fragmentation, digital surveillance, disinformation, and data protection. Cohorts examine the impact of technology on civic life and develop advocacy strategies to improve laws and regulations governing internet freedoms in their countries. So far, Tech Camp has trained 86 civic space defenders from 51 countries and awarded 13 grants for independent projects.
"I feel so privileged to have this opportunity to serve as U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for Digital Freedom at the State Department, particularly at this juncture in history,” said Donahoe. “There's so much at stake when it comes to AI governance, digital inclusion, and protection of human rights and democracy in the digital context. My work at Stanford's Global Digital Policy Incubator has equipped me well to help shape policy and lead U.S. diplomatic efforts in this realm."