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McCourt’s Tech & Public Policy program welcomes 3 new fellows

Select Georgetown graduate students will work with leading tech advocates to help identify and develop strategies to mitigate social media harm.

The McCourt School’s Tech & Public Policy (TPP) program initially launched and continues to proudly support paid fellowships for emerging technology policy leaders. In September 2023, TPP welcomed three distinguished scholars to work with Frances Haugen , Facebook whistleblower and advocate for accountability and transparency in social media, and her organization Beyond the Screen, which is supported by Project Liberty’s Institute (formerly the McCourt Institute).

During the fall semester, James Doyle (CCT’24), Archit Mehta (CCT’25) and Ava Schafbuch (CCT’25) will work closely with Haugen and the Beyond the Screen team to help advance the Duty of Care project, aimed at identifying and developing strategies to mitigate social media harm. This term, their focus is on identifying and cataloguing national security harms associated with social media. All three graduate students are earning master’s degrees in communication, culture & technology, studying the impact of technology on society, and society on technology.

“The Fellows are getting invaluable hands-on experience, not only in building evidence for policy, but in designing policy strategy, performing political outreach and crafting messaging,” said Michelle De Mooy , director of TPP. “This work is part of an important generational shift towards platform accountability, and it’s exciting to see these students on the front lines of it.”

Meet the Fall 2023 Beyond the Screen Fellows

James Doyle (CCT’24)

James Doyle

Shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, Doyle began working at a software engineering company. He spent his free time researching graduate programs that would allow him to not just create products, but learn how to improve technology development and advocate for more sustainable manufacturing. 

Doyle’s investigation led him to Georgetown, where he found “a massive amount of researchers and institutions pursuing the boundaries of technology and the social sciences.”

“While I have always loved the myriad ways that the tech ecosystem has improved life for many around the world, I began to find faults with a lot of the technologies around us, and with the philosophies underpinning developments coming out of Silicon Valley,” he said.

Ultimately, whether it be in a policy or academic role, my hope is to leverage my experience at Georgetown and as a Beyond the Screen Fellow to improve the ways in which companies roll out their products, and to both highlight and mitigate the harms these products often have on human beings.

James Doyle (CCT’24)

In the Communication, Culture & Technology program, his focus has largely been on tech ethics, philosophy and cultural ramifications. 

“At their best, social media platforms can allow for the unprecedented empowerment of groups that have historically been underrepresented and silenced; at their worst, they can pervert the values of those that use them,” said Doyle. “I greatly admire Beyond the Screen’s recognition of this reality.”

Archit Mehta

As a former fact-checking journalist with Alt News, Mehta learned the importance of accountability in media and technology, as well as how to monitor and debunk political misinformation. 

“Within my lifetime, I have witnessed the systemic erosion of democratic values across the world, leading to less empathy and an increase in real-world violence,” said Mehta. 

“The manner in which my reporting manager, Alt News Co-Founder Md Zubair, was arrested for allegedly ‘hurting religious sentiment’ in 2022 made me realize no one is safe in a democracy unless everyone is safe, especially those from minority communities,” he added.

Now, as a master’s student in the CCT program, Mehta seeks to understand how to ensure that social media platforms follow their own community guidelines. As a Tech & Public Policy Fellow, he aims to make the Internet safer for everyone, especially children.

“Like Frances Haugen, I believe social media accountability must be won through class action lawsuits,” said Mehta.

I am thrilled to be a part of the fellowship offered by Project Liberty’s Institute and genuinely appreciate the Institute’s efforts to ensure that this exciting opportunity is accessible to international students.

Archit Mehta (CCT’25)
Ava Schafbuch (CCT’25)

Ava Schafbuch

Schafbuch’s’ passion for ethical and conscientious tech policy is rooted in a commitment to holding Big Tech accountable. 

“Big Tech’s monopoly over the global population through data tracking, political and social manipulation of user’s content, as well as abuse and harmful consequences to younger generations, has prompted a dire need for government regulation and policies,” said Schafbuch.

Schafbuch, a recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, hopes to further her previous research on the ethical and social dilemmas of modernizing technology. “I want to continue learning about and bringing to light the issues that Big Tech poses on their users, especially related to elections, political information, misinformation, news reports and health information,” she said.

After graduation, Schafbuch endeavors to “educate users and customers about the systems and technologies that are harming or manipulating their online data or social media usage.”

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