Bernal Cortés ’22

Real Facebook Oversight Board, United Kingdom

I had the opportunity to work as a Research and Campaigns Officer for the Real Facebook Oversight Board (RFOB). 
The RFOB is a subsidiary group under the parent organization All the Citizens, a nonprofit group based in London. 
The RFOB was founded by Carole Cadwalladr, a British investigative journalist renowned for breaking the Cambridge 
Analytica story. The RFOB is made up of some of the most prominent scholars and academics in the field including 
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL; Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP; Shoshana Zuboff, Professor Emerita 
of the Harvard Business School; Laurence Tribe, Professor at Harvard Law; Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director of Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center; Roger McNamee, former investor in Facebook; and Yael Eisenstat, former 
Global Head of Elections Integrity Operations for political advertising at Facebook. The group was launched as an emergency response to potential interference in the 2020 election. It has since become a watchdog and independent oversight board, seeking to expose Facebook’s harms and hold the company to account.

Working from the Williams Bookstore.

My work this summer has had several focuses. I spent most of the summer working on our quarterly harms report. The report, which I wrote, sought to highlight many of the harms committed by Facebook within this fiscal quarter. 
Research for the report included compiling data on the most popular Facebook posts over the course of the quarter, where I found that 83.4% of number one posts were from known disinformation super spreaders such as Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino. I also used Media Cloud, a high-level internet scraping tool to better understand how the media talked about Facebook and Donald Trump. We published the report on July 28th, the same day Facebook held their second quarter earnings call. That morning, we collaborated with local activist artists in D.C. to place body bags outside of Facebook’s headquarters. Performing this stunt caught the attention of the press, earning my report pickup in major publications such as POLITICO, CNN, The Hill, The Wall Street Journal, and more.

This internship experience was incredibly impactful in terms of my future and career journey. Primarily, some of the connections I have made will certainly impact my job search process next year. Working with some of the most important people at the intersection of social media and democracy has given me a better idea of what to expect within the field. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with partner organizations which I would be interested in working for after I graduate. I am also preparing to write my senior thesis in political science, so having access to such incredible people will prove very helpful.

I would like to thank Kyle Taylor, Ben Wyskida, Carole Cadwalladr, and Clara Maguire at the RFOB, the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Class of 1972 for making such an incredible internship experience possible. Without these key players, I would not have had the opportunity to learn, grow, and further my interest in internet studies.