Over the last two decades, Yaël Eisenstat has been a CIA Officer, a U.S. Diplomat, and a special advisor to Vice President Biden. Noticing that more and more Americans were having a hard time finding common ground, she switched her focus from counter-extremism overseas to the dangers back at home—starting with Silicon Valley. Eisenstat’s national security expertise landed her at Facebook, working inside the company playing a major role in one of the biggest threats to our democracy. Today, Eisenstat helps us navigate the choppy intersection of ethics, technology, society, and politics to create a better future.
“We must strive to love our country more than we hate our neighbor.”— Yaël Eisenstat
The breakdown of civil discourse is the biggest threat to our democracy, says Yaël Eisenstat. After leaving the White House for the world of corporate social responsibility, the former CIA analyst became increasingly concerned with how the Internet was contributing to political polarization, hate, and division. “It was easier for me to sit down and have open discussions with suspected terrorists, than it was for me to engage in any sort of political or hot-button discussion with Americans on the opposite side of the fence from me,” Eisenstat explains. Still believing that the Internet could be harnessed for good—connecting, rather than dividing us— she took a job as the Global Head of Elections Integrity Operations at Facebook. There, she dug into misinformation in political advertising, and came to the conclusion that Facebook needed to change its business model. “As long as Facebook prioritises profit over healthy discourse, it can’t avoid damaging democracies,” she says. While the company continues to struggle with how to handle political content in the midst of another presidential election, Eisenstat has gone on to be a public advocate for transparency in tech.
As a speaker, Eisenstat brings a wealth of experience, as well as a genuinely hopeful vision for the next era of technology. In her brilliant, strategic talks, she discusses everything from information warfare and the future of media, to political and social inequality, international affairs, and national security. Following a period as an Adjunct Professor at NYU's Center for Global Affairs, Eisenstat is now a Visiting Fellow at Cornell Tech's Digital Life Initiative, where she explores technology's effects on civil discourse and democracy.
Once named one of Forbes “40 Women to Watch Over 40,” Eisenstat founded and runs Kilele Global: a consulting firm working with mission-driven organizations to tackle our most complex global challenges. She is also a Global Policy Adviser at the Center for Humane Technology and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Eisenstat regularly provides context and analysis on national security, political, and foreign affairs in the media. She has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, and WIRED, and has appeared on CNN, BBC World News, CBS News, and C-SPAN. Eisenstat earned an M.A. in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
With Great Power Comes...No Responsibility? The Insidious Effects of Technology on Our Democracy