Riana Pfefferkorn
Riana Pfefferkorn
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When we’re faced with a video recording of an event—such as an incident of police brutality—we can generally trust that the event happened as shown in the video. But that may soon change, thanks to the advent of so-called “deepfake” videos that use machine learning technology to show a real person saying and doing things they haven’t.

This technology poses a particular threat to marginalized communities. If deepfakes cause society to move away from the current “seeing is believing” paradigm for video footage, that shift may negatively impact individuals whose stories society is already less likely to believe. The proliferation of video recording technology has fueled a reckoning with police violence in the United States, recorded by bystanders and body-cameras. But in a world of pervasive, compelling deepfakes, the burden of proof to verify authenticity of videos may shift onto the videographer, a development that would further undermine attempts to seek justice for police violence. To counter deepfakes, high-tech tools meant to increase trust in videos are in development, but these technologies, though well-intentioned, could end up being used to discredit already marginalized voices. 

(Content Note: Some of the links in this piece lead to graphic videos of incidents of police violence. Those links are denoted in bold.)

Recent police killings of Black Americans caught on camera have inspired massive protests that have filled U.S. streets in the past year. Those protests endured for months in Minneapolis, where former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted this week in the murder of George Floyd, a Black man. During Chauvin’s trial, another police officer killed Daunte Wright just outside Minneapolis, prompting additional protests as well as the officer’s resignation and arrest on second-degree manslaughter charges. She supposedly mistook her gun for her Taser—the same mistake alleged in the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009, by an officer whom a jury later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter (but not guilty of a more serious charge). All three of these tragic deaths—George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Oscar Grant—were documented in videos that were later used (or, in Wright’s case, seem likely to be used) as evidence at the trials of the police officers responsible. Both Floyd’s and Wright’s deaths were captured by the respective officers’ body-worn cameras, and multiple bystanders with cell phones recorded the Floyd and Grant incidents. Some commentators credit a 17-year-old Black girl’s video recording of Floyd’s death for making Chauvin’s trial happen at all.

The growth of the movement for Black lives in the years since Grant’s death in 2009 owes much to the rise in the availability, quality, and virality of bystander videos documenting police violence, but this video evidence hasn’t always been enough to secure convictions. From Rodney King’s assailants in 1992 to Philando Castile’s shooter 25 years later, juries have often declined to convict police officers even in cases where wanton police violence or killings are documented on video. Despite their growing prevalence, police bodycams have had mixed results in deterring excessive force or impelling accountability. That said, bodycam videos do sometimes make a difference, helping to convict officers in the killings of Jordan Edwards in Texas and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. Chauvin’s defense team pitted bodycam footage against the bystander videos employed by the prosecution, and lost.

What makes video so powerful? Why does it spur crowds to take to the streets and lawyers to showcase it in trials? It’s because seeing is believing. Shot at differing angles from officers’ point of view, bystander footage paints a fuller picture of what happened. Two people (on a jury, say, or watching a viral video online) might interpret a video two different ways. But they’ve generally been able to take for granted that the footage is a true, accurate record of something that really happened. 

That might not be the case for much longer. It’s now possible to use artificial intelligence to generate highly realistic “deepfake” videos showing real people saying and doing things they never said or did, such as the recent viral TikTok videos depicting an ersatz Tom Cruise. You can also find realistic headshots of people who don’t exist at all on the creatively-named website (There’s even a cat version.) 

While using deepfake technology to invent cats or impersonate movie stars might be cute, the technology has more sinister uses as well. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning that malicious actors are “almost certain” to use “synthetic content” in disinformation campaigns against the American public and in criminal schemes to defraud U.S. businesses. The breakneck pace of deepfake technology’s development has prompted concerns that techniques for detecting such imagery will be unable to keep up. If so, the high-tech cat-and-mouse game between creators and debunkers might end in a stalemate at best. 

If it becomes impossible to reliably prove that a fake video isn’t real, a more feasible alternative might be to focus instead on proving that a real video isn’t fake. So-called “verified at capture” or “controlled-capture” technologies attach additional metadata to imagery at the moment it’s taken, to verify when and where the footage was recorded and reveal any attempt to tamper with the data. The goal of these technologies, which are still in their infancy, is to ensure that an image’s integrity will stand up to scrutiny. 

Photo and video verification technology holds promise for confirming what’s real in the age of “fake news.” But it’s also cause for concern. In a society where guilty verdicts for police officers remain elusive despite ample video evidence, is even more technology the answer? Or will it simply reinforce existing inequities? 

The “ambitious goal” of adding verification technology to smartphone chipsets necessarily entails increasing the cost of production. Once such phones start to come onto the market, they will be more expensive than lower-end devices that lack this functionality. And not everyone will be able to afford them. Black Americans and poor Americans have lower rates of smartphone ownership than whites and high earners, and are more likely to own a “dumb” cell phone. (The same pattern holds true with regard to educational attainment and urban versus rural residence.) Unless and until verification technology is baked into even the most affordable phones, it risks replicating existing disparities in digital access. 

That has implications for police accountability, and, by extension, for Black lives. Primed by societal concerns about deepfakes and “fake news,” juries may start expecting high-tech proof that a video is real. That might lead them to doubt the veracity of bystander videos of police brutality if they were captured on lower-end phones that lack verification technology. Extrapolating from current trends in phone ownership, such bystanders are more likely to be members of marginalized racial and socioeconomic groups. Those are the very people who, as witnesses in court, face an uphill battle in being afforded credibility by juries. That bias, which reared its ugly head again in the Chauvin trial, has long outlived the 19th-century rules that explicitly barred Black (and other non-white) people from testifying for or against white people on the grounds that their race rendered them inherently unreliable witnesses. 

In short, skepticism of “unverified” phone videos may compound existing prejudices against the owners of those phones. That may matter less in situations where a diverse group of numerous eyewitnesses record a police brutality incident on a range of devices. But if there is only a single bystander witness to the scene, the kind of phone they own could prove significant.

The advent of mobile devices empowered Black Americans to force a national reckoning with police brutality. Ubiquitous, pocket-sized video recorders allow average bystanders to document the pandemic of police violence. And because seeing is believing, those videos make it harder for others to continue denying the problem exists. Even with the evidence thrust under their noses, juries keep acquitting police officers who kill Black people. Chauvin’s conviction this week represents an exception to recent history: Between 2005 and 2019, of the 104 law enforcement officers charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with a shooting while on duty, 35 were convicted

The fight against fake videos will complicate the fight for Black lives. Unless it is equally available to everyone, video verification technology may not help the movement for police accountability, and could even set it back. Technological guarantees of videos’ trustworthiness will make little difference if they are accessible only to the privileged, whose stories society already tends to believe. We might be able to tech our way out of the deepfakes threat, but we can’t tech our way out of America’s systemic racism. 

Riana Pfefferkorn is a research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory

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Riana Pfefferkorn

Q&A with Riana Pfefferkorn, Stanford Internet Observatory Research Scholar

Riana Pfefferkorn joined the Stanford Internet Observatory as a research scholar in December. She comes from Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, where she was the Associate Director of Surveillance and Cybersecurity.
Q&A with Riana Pfefferkorn, Stanford Internet Observatory Research Scholar
A member of the All India Student Federation teaches farmers about social media and how to use such tools as part of ongoing protests against the government. (Pradeep Gaur / SOPA Images / Sipa via Reuters Connect)

New Intermediary Rules Jeopardize the Security of Indian Internet Users

New Intermediary Rules Jeopardize the Security of Indian Internet Users
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End-to-end encrypted (E2EE) communications have been around for decades, but the deployment of default E2EE on billion-user platforms has new impacts for user privacy and safety. The deployment comes with benefits to both individuals and society but it also creates new risks, as long-existing models of messenger abuse can now flourish in an environment where automated or human review cannot reach. New E2EE products raise the prospect of less understood risks by adding discoverability to encrypted platforms, allowing contact from strangers and increasing the risk of certain types of abuse. This workshop will place a particular focus on platform benefits and risks that impact civil society organizations, with a specific focus on the global south. Through a series of workshops and policy papers, the Stanford Internet Observatory is facilitating open and productive dialogue on this contentious topic to find common ground. 

An important defining principle behind this workshop series is the explicit assumption that E2EE is here to stay. To that end, our workshops have set aside any discussion of exceptional access (aka backdoor) designs. This debate has raged between industry, academic cryptographers and law enforcement for decades and little progress has been made. We focus instead on interventions that can be used to reduce the harm of E2E encrypted communication products that have been less widely explored or implemented. 

Submissions for working papers and requests to attend will be accepted up to 10 days before the event. Accepted submitters will be invited to present or attend our upcoming workshops. 




Please note: the start time for this event has been moved from 3:00 to 3:15pm.

Join FSI Director Michael McFaul in conversation with Richard Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. They will address the role of entrepreneurship in creating stable, prosperous societies around the world.

Richard Stengel Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Special Guest United States Department of State

Encina Hall
616 Jane Stanford Way
Stanford, CA 94305-6055

Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies, Department of Political Science
Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Michael McFaul is Director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science, and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1995.

Dr. McFaul also is as an International Affairs Analyst for NBC News and a columnist for The Washington Post. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014).

He has authored several books, most recently the New York Times bestseller From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. Earlier books include Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should, How We Can; Transitions To Democracy: A Comparative Perspective (eds. with Kathryn Stoner); Power and Purpose: American Policy toward Russia after the Cold War (with James Goldgeier); and Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin.

His current research interests include American foreign policy, great power relations, and the relationship between democracy and development. Dr. McFaul was born and raised in Montana. He received his B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages and his M.A. in Soviet and East European Studies from Stanford University in 1986. As a Rhodes Scholar, he completed his D. Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University in 1991. He is currently writing a book on great power relations in the 21st century.



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Russ Feingold, the former U.S. senator perhaps best known for pushing campaign finance reform, will spend the spring quarter at Stanford lecturing and teaching.

Feingold will be the Payne Distinguished Lecturer and will be in residence at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies while teaching and mentoring graduate students in the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies and the Stanford Law School.

Feingold was recently the State Department’s  special envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He will bring his knowledge and longstanding interest in one of the most challenging, yet promising, places in Africa to campus with the cross-listed IPS and Law School course, “The Great Lakes Region of Africa and American Foreign Relations: Policy and Legal Implications of the Post-1994 Era.”

Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who served three terms in the Senate between 1993 and 2011, co-sponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Better known as the McCain-Feingold Act, the legislation regulated the roles of soft money contributions and issue ads in national elections.

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About the Event: 

In The Fragile Balance of Terror, the foremost experts on nuclear policy and strategy offer insight into an era rife with more nuclear powers. Some of these new powers suffer domestic instability, others are led by pathological personalist dictators, and many are situated in highly unstable regions of the world—a volatile mix of variables.

The increasing fragility of deterrence in the twenty-first century is created by a confluence of forces: military technologies that create vulnerable arsenals, a novel information ecosystem that rapidly transmits both information and misinformation, nuclear rivalries that include three or more nuclear powers, and dictatorial decision making that encourages rash choices. The nuclear threats posed by India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea are thus fraught with danger.

The Fragile Balance of Terror, edited by Vipin Narang and Scott D. Sagan, brings together a diverse collection of rigorous and creative scholars who analyze how the nuclear landscape is changing for the worse. Scholars, pundits, and policymakers who think that the spread of nuclear weapons can create stable forms of nuclear deterrence in the future will be forced to think again. The volume was produced under the auspices of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences project “Meeting the Challenges of the New Nuclear Age”, co-chaired by CISAC Director Scott D. Sagan.

About the Speakers:

Rose McDermott is the David and Mariana Fisher University Professor of International Relations at Brown University and a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She works in the areas of political psychology.  She received her Ph.D.(Political Science) and M.A. (Experimental Social Psychology) from Stanford University and has also taught at Cornell and UCSB.   She has held fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Women and Public Policy Program, all at Harvard University, and has been a fellow at the Stanford Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences twice. She is the author of five books, a co-editor of two additional volumes, and author of over two hundred academic articles across a wide variety of disciplines encompassing topics such as American foreign and defense policy, experimentation, national security intelligence, gender, social identity, cybersecurity, emotion and decision-making, and the biological and genetic bases of political behavior.

Amy Zegart is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Professor of Political Science by courtesy at Stanford University. She is also the Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Chair of Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence and International Security Steering Committee, and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. She specializes in U.S. intelligence, cybersecurity, emerging technologies and national security, and global political risk management.

The author of five books, Zegart’s award-winning research includes the bestseller Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence (Princeton, 2022); Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations (Brookings, 2019), co-edited with Herb Lin; Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity (Twelve, 2018), co-authored with Condoleezza Rice; and the leading academic study of intelligence failures before 9/11 – Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton 2007).  Her op-eds and essays have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Politico, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Wired, and elsewhere. 

Zegart has been featured by the National Journal as one of the ten most influential experts in intelligence reform. She served on the Clinton administration’s National Security Council staff and as a foreign policy adviser to the Bush 2000 presidential campaign. She has also testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and advises senior officials on intelligence, homeland security, and cybersecurity matters.

Previously, Zegart served as co-director of Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, founding co-director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Program, and chief academic officer of the Hoover Institution. Before coming to Stanford, she was Professor of Public Policy at UCLA and a McKinsey & Company consultant.

She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, the American Political Science Association’s Leonard D. White Dissertation Prize, and research grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Hewlett Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Zegart received an A.B. in East Asian studies magna cum laude from Harvard University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. She serves on the board of directors of Kratos Defense & Security Solutions (KTOS) and the Capital Group. 

 All CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone.

William J. Perry Conference Room

Rose McDermott
Amy Zegart
REDS Steve Fish

Over the past decade, illiberal demagogues around the world have launched ferocious assaults on democracy. Embracing high-dominance political styles and a forceful argot of national greatness, they hammer at their supposed superiority as commanders, protectors, and patriots. Bewildered left-liberals have often played to the type their tormentors assign them. Fretting over their own purported neglect of the folks’ kitchen-table concerns, they leave the guts and glory to opponents who grasp that elections are emotions-driven dominance competitions.

Consequently, in America, democracy’s survival now hangs on the illiberal party making colossal blunders on the eve of elections. But in the wake of Putin’s attack on Ukraine, a new cohort of liberals is emerging in Central and Eastern Europe. From Greens to right-center conservatives, they grasp the centrality of messaging, nationalism, chutzpah, and strength. They’re showing how to dominate rather than accommodate evil. What can American liberals learn from their tactics and ways?



Steven Fish

Steve Fish is a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Democracy from Scratch, Democracy Derailed in Russia, and Are Muslims Distinctive? and coauthor of The Handbook of National Legislatures. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Comeback: Crushing Trump, Burying Putin, and Restoring Democracy’s Ascendance around the World.


The REDS Seminar Series aims to deepen the research agenda on the new challenges facing Europe, especially on its eastern flank, and to build intellectual and institutional bridges across Stanford University, fostering interdisciplinary approaches to current global challenges.

REDS is organized by The Europe Center and the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, and co-sponsored by the Hoover Institution.


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Kathryn Stoner

Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Steve Fish, University of California, Berkeley
Catherine Thomas seminar

Every year, millions of low-income households around the world receive over $100 billion in anti-poverty aid. This research shows how psychologically savvy and culturally attuned narratives of anti-poverty policies can both improve recipients’ economic outcomes and build public support. This research suggests that status quo narratives of aid that are focused on recipients’ neediness and helplessness may paradoxically maintain cycles of stigma, prejudice and poverty. However, a series of experiments in East and West Africa demonstrate that these cycles can be interrupted when narratives represent aid as an opportunity for recipients to realize their agency and aspirations in culturally resonant ways. Lab and field experiments with low-income recipients of aid in East and West Africa demonstrate how such narrative-based interventions can enhance the cost-effectiveness of large-scale anti-poverty programs. Online experiments in the US show how such narratives can mitigate welfare-related prejudice and build support for policies like universal basic income.


Catherine Thomas
Catherine Thomas is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions (SPARQ). She assesses psychological drivers of cycles of poverty and inequality through lab and field experiments in the US and low-income countries. With a focus on agency and dignity, she tests culturally attuned psychological interventions for reducing poverty, attenuating inequality, and mitigating prejudice against people living in poverty. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Stanford University and an M.Sc. in Global Mental Health from the University of London. 

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.

Catherine Thomas Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University's Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions (SPARQ) Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University's Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions (SPARQ)
Leah Rosenzweig seminar

While initial supply shortages delayed access to the COVID-19 vaccine for many low and middle income countries, most now have an abundance of doses. Yet only a quarter of African citizens have completed their COVID-19 vaccination primary series. Exploring effective modes of vaccine delivery is necessary to increase uptake. In collaboration with the Kenyan government, we conducted a field experiment to examine whether ease of access and requests from authority figures influence COVID-19 vaccination rates. By comparing rates between facility and community based vaccination activities, we are able to calculate the cost effectiveness of these policies, offering insights that are useful now and for future pandemics.


Leah Rosenzweig
Leah Rosenzweig is Director and Lead Researcher at the Development Innovation Lab (DIL) at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the micro-foundations of political and social behavior to gain leverage on macro policy-relevant questions. Her current work in the political economy of development explores the existence and consequences of social norms of voting in semi-authoritarian states, government accountability in low- and middle-income countries, and inter-group relations. She also works on designing and evaluating optimal policies to combat the spread of online misinformation and increase vaccination, as well as applied research methods. Prior to joining DIL, Leah held positions at Stanford University, the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, and was a consultant for the Nigerian government. Leah received her PhD in Political Science from MIT.

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.

Didi Kuo

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.

CDDRL Postdoctoral Scholar, 2020-21

My research centers on topics in comparative politics and the political economy of development. I focus on the micro-foundations of political behavior to gain leverage on macro-political questions. How do autocrats survive? How can citizen-state relations be improved and government accountability strengthened? Can shared identities mitigate out-group animosity? Adopting a multi-method approach, I use lab-in-the-field and online experiments, surveys, and in-depth field research to examine these questions in sub-Saharan Africa and the US. My current book project reexamines the role of elections in authoritarian endurance and explains why citizens vote in elections with foregone conclusions in Tanzania and Uganda. Moving beyond conventional paradigms, my theory describes how a social norm of voting and accompanying social sanctions from peers contribute to high turnout in semi-authoritarian elections. In other ongoing projects, I study how national and pan-African identification stimulated through national sports games influence attitudes toward refugees, the relationship between identity, emotions, and belief in fake news, and how researchers can use Facebook as a tool for social science research.

Leah R. Rosenzweig
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Slavery victimizes tens of millions of people worldwide. In 2016, 40 million people were identified as slaves, an estimated 25% percent of them children. Given a broader definition of slavery that includes child labor and child servitude, 152 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 were child laborers as of 2016, and many millions more were involved in some form of slavery-like practice.

Stanford PhD candidate Vincent Jappah, MD, notes in his new article published in the journal Medicine, Conflict and Survival, that the gray area surrounding the acceptance of child servitude in many cultures makes formulating the correct number of victims difficult. Call it servitude or slavery, the practice diminishes the health and social well-being of children and causes harmful ripple effects in their communities as well as to the rest of the world.

Jappah notes that policies to address child servitude and other slavery-like practices are fundamental to global health policy and development. Using a health equity framework can help mitigate the negative impacts of child servitude, in that it requires addressing the diverse factors that impact a person’s ability to meet key health milestones. Irrespective of a person’s race, socio-economic status, financial and physical ability, all global citizens have the right to a healthy life.

The study, “The political economy of child service in Liberia, West Africa,” co-authored by Jappah and Danielle Taana Smith, a professor of African American Studies at Syracuse University, notes that modern slavery is often centered around alleviating one’s own personal poverty and gaining power, even if that means exploiting the children of your own community.

Both Liberian natives, the researchers note that Liberians — like those of other countries including the United States — will often target those from low socioeconomic backgrounds and indigenous peoples.

This often takes place “within groups that in many instances share similar racial identities and physical features,” Jappah said. “Today, the child next door in a neighbor’s home may be deprived of going to school and coerced into performing endless hours of chores, with poor food and living conditions, the inability to leave the house, and the constant fear of violence.”

Jappah notes child servitude can potentially have devastating health consequences, and poses a major health challenge for individuals and their communities. Many victims typically live in unsuitable and unsanitary environments often littered with mosquitos, flies, lice, and other transmitters of disease. These children may also face poor mental health outcomes such as depression, social anxiety and social dysfunction, low self-esteem and failure to meet critical developmental milestones.

These children, as all children do, internalize and, to some extent, normalize their living conditions, and society becomes more acquiescent to such practices, despite their detrimental effects.
Vincent Jappah, MD, MPH
PhD Candidate, Stanford Heath Policy

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, having suffered years of civil war and regional conflict. Its human development indicators rank 175 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index. The child malnutrition rate is 15% among 5-year-olds and younger and many Liberians lack access to basic needs such as food, water, shelter, education, and health care.

In fact, the authors note, nearly 63% of the people in the West African nation established by freed American slaves live in poverty; 69% of the country’s 5 million people live on less than $3.20 a day.

“A functional economy that ensures that most citizens can earn a living wage does not exist,” the authors wrote. “Extreme poverty in some families, high levels of illiteracy and unemployment, and suboptimal economic activities contribute to child servitude and other forms of child exploitation.”

The children of Liberia are not alone. In societies with inherent instability and ongoing conflict, the practice of child servitude can become accepted as a normal way to make money and centralize power when opportunity and resources are scarce.

Jappah notes that for young children and adolescents, this is the period of forming personality, critical reasoning and developing relationships outside of the home, as well as forming opinions about the world around them. Living in such dehumanizing conditions can result in shame and trauma and often have intergenerational effects. They also have lower levels of education and higher dropout rates, contributing to an ongoing cycle of intergenerational poverty.

“These children, as all children do, internalize and, to some extent, normalize their living conditions, and society becomes more acquiescent to such practices, despite their detrimental effects,” Jappah said.  “These practices are widespread in places where laws are not adequate to address them, or if there are laws, few enforcement mechanisms are in place, or they are not enforced.”

Jappah said Liberians must address their cultural history of exploitation if they want to abolish the practice of child servitude. In addition, addressing the larger issues of inequity and the exclusion of marginalized groups is necessary.

“Throughout human history, we have witnessed clashes among social classes and groups,” Jappah said. “The more inequitable a society is, the more likely it is to be rife with social tensions.”

He concluded that those tensions are evident in developing countries as well as the industrialized nations such as the United States, a Western harbor of child trafficking and slavery. According to the Global Slavery Index, on any given day in 2016 there were 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States — or 1.3 victims of slavery for every thousand people in this country.

 “This phenomenon is universal; Liberia is not an exception,” Jappah said.



Vincent Jappah Photo

Vincent Jappah, MD, MPH

PhD Candidate
He focuses on public policy, economics, global child and maternal health.
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A new article co-authored by Health Policy PhD candidate Vincent Jappah reveals that the modern drivers of child servitude in Liberia are largely social vulnerability and cultural acceptance of the practice, rather than traditional factors based on race and ethnicity.

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Join the Cyber Policy Center and moderator Daniel Bateyko in conversation with Karen Nershi for How Strong Are International Standards in Practice?:  Evidence from Cryptocurrency Transactions.

The rise of cryptocurrency (decentralized digital currency) presents challenges for state regulators given its connection to illegal activity and pseudonymous nature, which has allowed both individuals and businesses to circumvent national laws through regulatory arbitrage. Karen Nershi assess the degree to which states have managed to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges, providing a detailed study of international efforts to impose common regulatory standards for a new technology. To do so, she introduces a dataset of cryptocurrency transactions collected during a two-month period in 2020 from exchanges in countries around the world and employ bunching estimation to compare levels of unusual activity below a threshold at which exchanges must screen customers for money laundering risk. She finds that exchanges in some, but not all, countries show substantial unusual activity below the threshold; these findings suggest that while countries have made progress toward regulating cryptocurrency exchanges, gaps in enforcement across countries allow for regulatory arbitrage.

This session is part of the Fall Seminar Series, a months-long series designed to bring researchers, policy makers, scholars and industry professionals together to share research, findings and trends in the cyber policy space. Both in-person (Stanford-affiliation required) and virtual attendance (open to the public) is available; registration is required.

Karen Nershi is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University's Stanford Internet Observatory and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). In the summer of 2021, she completed her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Pennsylvania specializing in the fields of international relations and comparative politics. Through an empirical lens, her research examines questions of international cooperation and regulation within international political economy, including challenges emerging from the adoption of decentralized digital currency and other new technologies.

Specific topics Dr. Nershi explores in her research include ransomware, cross-national regulation of the cryptocurrency sector, and international cooperation around anti-money laundering enforcement. Her research has been supported by the University of Pennsylvania GAPSA Provost Fellowship for Innovation and the Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics.

Before beginning her doctorate, Karen Nershi earned a B.A. in International Studies with honors at the University of Alabama. She lived and studied Arabic in Amman, Jordan and Meknes, Morocco as a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow and a Critical Language Scholarship recipient. She also lived and studied in Mannheim, Germany, in addition to interning at the U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt (Frankfurt, Germany).

Dan Bateyko is the Special Projects Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

Dan worked previously as a Research Coordinator for The Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, where he investigated Immigration and Customs Enforcement surveillance practices, co-authoring American Dragnet: Data-Drive Deportation in the 21st Century. He has worked at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, the Dangerous Speech Project, and as a research assistant for Amanda Levendowski, whom he assisted with legal scholarship on facial surveillance.

In 2016, he received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. He spent his fellowship year talking with people about digital surveillance and Internet infrastructure in South Korea, China, Malaysia, Germany, Ghana, Russia, and Iceland. His writing has appeared in Georgetown Tech Law Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Dazed Magazine, The Internet Health Report, Council on Foreign Relations' Net Politics, and Global Voices. He is a 2022 Internet Law & Policy Foundry Fellow.

Dan received his Masters of Law & Technology from Georgetown University Law Center (where he received the IAPP Westin Scholar Book Award for excellence in Privacy Law), and his B.A. from Middlebury College.

Dan Bateyko
Karen Nershi
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