Visiting Senior Fellow, Encrypted Messaging Platforms
Job Details
Atlantic Council Headquarters - Washington, DC
Temporary
Digital Forensic Research Lab
Description

About DFRLab

The Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) is a start-up incubated at the Atlantic Council. We’re different than most think tank teams and we like it that way. DRFLab is an action-oriented center producing timely primary research, training an ecosystem of others who share our passion, and convening those on the front lines of our industry to elevate new ideas and chart a path forward.

 

Join our fast-paced and truly global team as we work to further the DFRLab’s mission:

  • To forge digital resilience at a time when humans are more interconnected and have more access to information than at any point in history.
  • To promote objective fact as a foundation of government for and by people.
  • To identify, expose, and explain disinformation when and where it occurs.
  • To protect democratic institutions and norms from those who would undermine them online.
  • To develop a new field and network of expertise adapted for impact and real-world results.

 

The DFRLab is at the forefront of open-source research with a focus on governance, security, technology, media, and where each intersects. Our method and approach allow us to inform the public and policymakers on issues such as protracted conflicts, breaking crises, and election integrity, in a uniquely tangible and data-driven way. We do this by:

  • Defining the role of the internet and other technologies in both promotion and defense of free and open societies.  
  • Charting the evolution of disinformation and other online and technological harms, especially as they relate to the DFRLab’s leadership role in establishing shared definitions, frameworks, and mitigation practices. 
  • Studying the emerging global information competition and battle for digital influence and technological dominance, recognizing that this represents the harbinger of a broader paradigm shift in international affairs. 
  • Working directly with government, media, tech, and civil society on their collective responsibility in democracy and toward digital resilience. 

 

The DFRLab is building a movement. We hope you’ll be a part of it.

 

 

Job Description

This contract position will lead a research project on encrypted peer-to-peer (P2P) and centralized messaging platforms in the United States. The one-year project aims to produce the most comprehensive body of research on encrypted messaging platform activity in the US to date, with particular focus on identifying future research questions.

 

The project will investigate the varying degrees of trust in, and usage, and transparency of encrypted messaging platforms, and the subsequent implications for the spread of mis- and disinformation. The objective is to understand—and measure—how encrypted messaging platforms are shaping the dynamics of the broader U.S. information environment.

 

This may include a wide range of research inquiries with a primary focus on opinion-shaping and potentially harmful or manipulated content. Anticipated areas of study include: 

 

  • Use of Telegram for coordination purposes by a range of political, activist, and ideological actors; 
  • The migration of increasingly radicalized online communities to encrypted messaging platforms in light of de-platforming and content moderation efforts on mainstream social media; 
  • The use of specific encrypted messaging platforms by diaspora communities (such as various Latin American diaspora community’s use of WhatsApp or the Chinese diaspora’s use of WeChat) and the potential spread of misinformation within these communities; 
  • The spread  of health-related misinformation through encrypted messaging platforms, with a focus on COVID-19 and vaccine-related narratives.

 

Project outputs will include a literature review of existing encrypted messaging platform research, a survey of noteworthy services, a final comprehensive report, and, as appropriate, a combination of short-form case studies, issue briefs, and policy engagement.

 

This role is perfect for a mixed-methods researcher familiar with the role that encrypted messaging platforms play in political discourse as well as the previous studies conducted in Brazil, India, Nigeria, and elsewhere. The fellow will work closely with DFRLab’s policy, editorial, and research teams, as well as experts in the wider Atlantic Council, to support their day-to-day activities. The role is best suited for a self-starter but will be supported by a part-time research assistant.

 

We are currently hiring for an immediate start date.  Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and will be accepted until a suitable candidate has been selected. While the below qualifications serve as a preferred baseline, the DFRLab is open to tailoring the position within reason to match the expertise of promising candidates.

 

 

Responsibilities

  • Work with management, policy, and editorial teams to shape DFRLab’s research agenda on the use of encrypted messaging platforms (principally WhatsApp);
  • Conduct a lit review and identify research gaps in the study of encrypted messaging platform use in the United States;
  • Study the use of encrypted messaging platforms in diaspora and immigrant communities;
  • Identify, map, and monitor influence networks on encrypted messaging platforms, focused specifically on the spread of mis- and disinformation;
  • Produce periodic case studies examining elements of encrypted messaging platform use both in the United States and globally;
  • Produce a comprehensive report focused specifically on encrypted messaging platform use in the United States;
  • Help build and manage relationships with the scholar and practitioner communities as well as international stakeholders;
  • Help formulate informed recommendations for policymakers, industry representatives, and the research community;
  • Represent the DFRLab at relevant public engagements and conduct briefings for government officials and civil society on research outcomes;
  • Assist broader DFRLab reporting and programming as needed.
Qualifications
  • Minimum of 7 years of relevant work experience and demonstrated subject matter expertise;
  • Masters-level or higher education in Communications, Anthropology, or Political Science strongly preferred, or equivalent professional experience;
  • English fluency with excellent mixed-methods research, writing, and editing skills;
  • Proficiency in Spanish (strongly preferred);
  • Familiarity with the technical study of encrypted messaging platforms as well as survey and interview methods;
  • Experience with and a passion for using open-source research methodologies to investigate disinformation or narrative spread;
  • Project management experience;
  • Strong interpersonal skills, including an ability to work well in a team and deal effectively with individuals ranging from interns to top representatives in government and the private sector;
  • Must be an entrepreneurial and detail-oriented self-starter and have the ability to work in a fast-paced environment;
  • Candidates with experience in or adjacency to the field of digital anthropology are encouraged to apply.
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