About Us

Our Mission

The Coalition for Independent Technology Research works to advance, defend, and sustain the right to study the impact of technology on society. We aim to do so by building a coalition of academics, journalists, civil society researchers, and community scientists committed to advocating for and organizing in defense of research that is ethical, transparent, and privacy-preserving. We are committed to supporting research by individuals as diverse as the societies we share. The Coalition and its members are, and will remain, independent of the technology industry we study.

To learn more about the Coalition and its work, read our founding document and manifesto.

Activities

The Coalition will engage in crisis response, advocacy, and communications, while also strengthening and supporting the ecosystem of independent researchers. We expect our initial activities to include: 

Organizing Mutual Defense: Companies continue to attack and obstruct independent researchers whose commitment to truth and transparency put the companies’ profits at risk. When independent researchers come under attack, we will organize to defend and support them together.

Making the Case for Independent Research: We will advocate to ensure that the public, policymakers, and corporate actors understand how ethical and independent research serves the common good. We will also make sure that the public understands the threats that independent researchers continue to face.

Creating Standards and Oversight: Public trust in independent research is hard to earn and easy to lose. We will work to gain durable public trust by contributing to the development of standards and oversight for independent research. These standards will be flexible enough to encompass diverse contributions of knowledge and a wide variety of research methods, including those that do not rely on permission from the tech companies.

Conducting Advocacy: We will engage in advocacy because the capacity to conduct independent research depends on policy decisions at the federal and state levels. We will collectively advocate models of governance and oversight of tech companies built on industry-independent research.

Convening Communities of Practice: The Coalition will convene and support researchers who collect data with and without permission of the tech companies. By sharing resources, collaborating on best practices, and creating standards, we can ensure that independent research serves society and upholds our commitment to ethics and privacy.

Growing Funding & Sustainability of Independent Research: Research on technology and society is dominated by corporate funding that has captured the focus of thousands of researchers. To address this, we will organize a working group to collaborate on increasing the pool of available resources for industry-independent research, with a particular focus on diversity and equity in funding.

Executive Committee

Dr. J. Nathan Matias

FOUNDER
CITIZENS AND TECHNOLOGY LAB
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
CORNELL UNIVERSITY

Dr. J. Nathan Matias (@natematias) organizes citizen behavioral science for a safer, fairer, more understanding internet. He is founder of the Citizens and Technology Lab, which works for a world where digital power is guided by evidence and accountable to the public. A Guatemalan-American, Nathan is an assistant professor in the Cornell University Department of Communication and field member in Information Science.

Dr. Rebekah Tromble

DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR DATA, DEMOCRACY & POLITICS
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

Dr. Rebekah Tromble is Director of the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics and Associate Professor in the School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University. Her research focuses on political communication, digital research methodology, and research ethics, with particular interests in political discourse on social media, as well as the impacts of exposure to toxic and abusive content. Dr. Tromble is currently leading Expert Voices Together, an interdisciplinary, cross-sector project funded by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator program to develop a rapid response system in support of journalists, scientists, public health officials, and other experts facing campaigns of online harassment. Dr. Tromble consults regularly for industry and policymakers, particularly on topics of digital platform accountability, transparency, and responsible data access and use. She is also a member of the European Digital Media Observatory’s Advisory Board, where she serves as Chair of the multi-stakeholder Working Group on Platform Data Access.

Susan Benesch

FACULTY ASSOCIATE AT THE BERKMAN KLEIN CENTER FOR INTERNET AND SOCIETY
HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Susan Benesch is Faculty Associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She founded and directs the Dangerous Speech Project, to study speech that can inspire violence – and to find ways to prevent this, without infringing on freedom of expression. To that end, she conducts research on methods to diminish harmful speech online, or the harm itself.

Alex Abdo

LITIGATION DIRECTOR
KNIGHT FIRST AMENDMENT INSTITUTE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Alex Abdo is the inaugural litigation director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, where he has litigated cases designed to promote a system of free expression that is open and inclusive, that broadens and elevates public discourse, and that fosters creativity, accountability, and effective self-government. Particularly relevant to his membership in the Coalition, he has represented journalists and researchers whose work would illuminate the influence that the social media platforms are having on society, but who fear legal liability for relying on investigative methods that the platforms view as violating their terms of service. Prior to joining the Knight Institute, Abdo worked for eight years at the ACLU, where he litigated cases relating to NSA surveillance, encryption, anonymous speech online, government transparency, and the post-9/11 abuse of detainees in US custody.

Staff

Photo of Brandi Geurkink

Brandi Geurkink

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

brandi[at]independenttechresearch[dot]org

Brandi Geurkink is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, a coalition of more than 300 individual researchers and 50 research groups who work together to advance, defend, and sustain the right to ethically study the impacts of technology on society. Prior to the Coalition, she led advocacy campaigns at the Mozilla Foundation for policies to improve independent researcher access to data and open-source auditing of consumer technology platforms in Europe and the United States. At Mozilla, she created YouTube Regrets, the world’s largest community-driven audit of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm which has won multiple awards. Previously, Brandi also directed a research team and advised on the technology portfolio of Reset Tech, a nonprofit philanthropic organization dedicated to restoring the critical connection between media and democracy. Before working on corporate accountability in the technology sector, Brandi was an organizer and campaigner with the International Civil Society Centre in Berlin and the ONE Campaign in Washington, D.C. Brandi’s work has been cited by policymakers working on digital regulation in Europe and the United States, and her research and opinions have been featured in national and international publications, including the Wall Street Journal, NPR, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, the Times of India, WIRED, Fast Company and more.

Maia Woluchem

POLICY & ADVOCACY CONSULTANT

maia[at]independenttechresearch[dot]org

Maia Woluchem is an urban planner, educator, and technologist, who has worked across government, philanthropy, civil society, and in academia to strengthen human rights in the digital realm. She is especially interested in building collective understanding around racial capitalism, democracy, and surveillance in sociotechnical systems, in both domestic and global contexts. Maia was a Tech Fellow at the Ford Foundation, built research at the Surveillance Resistance Lab, and is the incoming Program Director for the Trustworthy Infrastructures Program at Data & Society. She is also an adjunct faculty member at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where she teaches about segregation’s legacy on broader public policy. When not at work, she can be found in Brooklyn, sewing clothes and singing jazz with her neighbors. She earned her Masters degree from MIT and a BS from the University of Pittsburgh.

Sarah Allen

Sarah Allen

STRATEGIC ADVISOR

sarah[at]independenttechresearch[dot]org

Sarah Allen specialises in strategic practices and frameworks that translate high-level organizational and program objectives into mobilized and engaged communities of practice, supporting emerging leaders to address real-life issues that impact our collective online lives. In her previous role as Senior Director of MozFest, she manifested the Mozilla Foundation’s strategy on Trustworthy AI through a series of global convenings designed to grow and support a geographically diverse range of stakeholders’ activism in building new policies and innovative open technology, with human experience at the forefront.

Bryn Taylor

PROGRAM COORDINATOR

bryn[at]independenttechresearch[dot]org

Bryn Taylor is a student currently pursuing studies in political communications at George Washington University. Throughout her academic journey, Bryn has demonstrated exceptional critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as a strong ability to connect theory with real-world applications. She currently resides in both Boston, MA and Washington, DC.

Board

Dave Karpf

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

Dave Karpf is an Associate Professor in the George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs. His research centers on strategic political communication in the digital age, with a particular focus on the organizational layer of American politics. His current research examines the “history of the digital future.”

David Lazer

UNIVERSITY DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND COMPUTER SCIENCES
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY

David Lazer is a University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer Sciences, Northeastern University, and Co-Director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. Prior to coming to Northeastern University, he was on the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School (1998-2009). In 2019, he was elected a fellow to the National Academy of Public Administration. His research has been published in such journals as Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the American Political Science Review, Organization Science, and the Administrative Science Quarterly, and has received extensive coverage in the media, including the New York Times, NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and CBS Evening News.

He is among the leading scholars in the world on misinformation and computational social science and has served in multiple leadership and editorial positions, including as a board member for the International Network of Social Network Analysts (INSNA), reviewing editor for Science, associate editor of Social Networks and Network Science, numerous other editorial boards and program committees.

Nathalie Maréchal

CO-DIRECTOR, PRIVACY AND DATA PROJECT
CDT

Nathalie Maréchal is the Co-Director of the Privacy & Data Project at CDT. Prior to joining CDT in January 2023, she was the Policy Director at Ranking Digital Rights, an independent research program at the policy think tank New America that promotes freedom of expression and privacy on the internet by creating global standards and incentives for companies to respect and protect users’ rights. In 2020, Nathalie was the lead author of RDR’s “It’s the Business Model” report series, which builds on her 2018 Motherboard op-ed, “Targeted Advertising is Ruining the Internet and Breaking the World,” to argue that disinformation, hate speech, and other “information harms” linked to social media platforms are rooted in the surveillance capitalism business model. She has testified in front of the US House of Representatives and the US International Trade Commission. She holds a PhD in communication from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, and lives in Washington, DC.

James Mickens

GORDON MCKAY PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
HARVARD UNIVERSITY

James Mickens is a Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University. His research focuses on the performance, security, and robustness of large-scale distributed systems. Prior to becoming a professor at Harvard, Dr. Mickens spent seven years at Microsoft Research; he was also a visiting professor at MIT. At Harvard, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; he is also a Faculty Director for the Institute for Rebooting Social Media.

Nabiha Syed

CEO
THE MARKUP

Nabiha Syed is the CEO of The Markup, a media startup that investigates how powerful actors use technology to reshape society. In 2022, The Markup was recognized by FastCompany as both a World Changing Idea and one of the Most Innovative companies. Forbes has called Nabiha “one of the best emerging free speech lawyers.”

Previously, Nabiha served as Vice President and Associate General Counsel at BuzzFeed, as the company’s first newsroom lawyer, and as the First Amendment Fellow at The New York Times. She has worked on legal access issues at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, represented asylum-seekers in south Texas, counseled on whether to publish leaked and hacked materials, co-founded the nation’s first media law clinic, and spoken widely about misinformation and propaganda. For her work, Nabiha has been named as a “Rising Star” by the New York Law Journal, a finalist for the Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year from the International Bar Association, and received an inaugural Reporter’s Committee for the Freedom of the Press Award. She holds a law degree from Yale Law School and from Balliol College, Oxford, which she attended as a Marshall Scholar.

Ethan Zuckerman

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AT AMHERST
DIRECTOR OF THE INITIATIVE FOR DIGITAL PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE

Ethan Zuckerman is Associate Professor of Public Policy, Information and Communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and director of the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure. His research focuses on the use of media as a tool for social change, the use of new media technologies by activists and alternative business and governance models for the internet. He is the author of Mistrust: How Losing Trust in Institutions Provides Tools to Transform Them (2021) and Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection (2013). With Rebecca MacKinnon, Zuckerman co-founded the international blogging community Global Voices. It showcases news and opinions from citizen media in more than 150 nations and 30 languages, publishing editions in 20 languages. Previously, Zuckerman directed the Center for Civic Media at MIT and taught at the MIT Media Lab. In 2000, Zuckerman founded Geekcorps, a technology volunteer organization that sends IT specialists to work on projects in developing nations, with a focus on West Africa. Previously, he helped found Tripod.com, one of the web’s first “personal publishing” sites. He and his family live in Berkshire County in western Massachusetts.

Funders

Seed funding for the Coalition has been provided by the NetGain Partnership and Media Democracy Fund.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the gatherings that formed the Coalition between October 2021 and our founding event in June 2022, and to those who have offered leadership, guidance, and logistical support, including:

  • Bob Alotta
  • Amber French
  • Jenny Choi
  • Tonei Glavinic
  • Alix Dunn
  • Ling Luther
  • Elizabeth Eagen
  • kaze design