About Jillian C. York

Copy/paste-friendly bio:

A photo of a smiling Jillian York, wearing sunglasses and showing off her tattoos while standing on a Berlin bridge

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist whose work examines the impact of technology on our societal and cultural values. Based in Berlin, she is the Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a fellow at the Center for Internet & Human Rights at the European University Viadrina, a visiting professor at the College of Europe Natolin, and the author of Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism (Verso 2021).

Jillian is a frequent public speaker on topics including censorship, surveillance, and the impact of social media on our lives and our societies, and her writing has been published by the MotherboardBuzzfeedAl Jazeera, the Atlantic, the GuardianQuartz, MIT Technology Review, The Washington Post, and Die Zeit, among others. Jillian currently serves on the Advisory Council of the Open Tech Fund, the International Advisory Board of the International Free Expression Project, and the Advisory Board of Open Rights Group.

photo by VampKitty

Photo by Sina Giencke

Long-form bio:

I am a child of New England, of New Hampshire birch and Maine lakes, born on Abenaki land. I am tri-continental, with my feet in Germany, a piece of my heart in Morocco and a large part of my soul spread across the Middle East. I have traveled to more countries than I can count (ok, as of February 2024 it’s 79), met more incredible people that I could’ve ever dreamed, and have impressed my five-, fifteen-, and twenty five-year-old selves beyond their wildest imagination.

I grew up in local theatre, taking the stage at age 5 as Gretl in “The Sound of Music”. I later performed in a wide variety of productions, from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hair” (twice) to “Anything Goes” and “Oklahoma.” I’ve done lighting design, stage management, played in the pit, and even wrote and directed a 24-hour production. I also play saxophone and percussion and have sung in choirs, jazz ensembles, rock bands, and karaoke bars all over the world. I currently sing backup in a band in Berlin. Performing on stage from a young age gave me so much of my personality and confidence and has served me well as a public speaker.

I am passionate about the idea of the Internet as a facilitator for global connections, and, as such, I believe that it must be as free and accessible as possible. To that end, I currently serve as the Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where my work focuses on online censorship and the right to free expression. I am a frequent public speaker on those and other topics. I am also a fellow at the Centre for Internet & Human Rights in Berlin, a visiting professor at the College of Europe Natolin, and a  member of the Deep Lab collective. I also co-host a podcast called The Internet of Humans.

Drawn by Susie Cagle
Drawn by Susie Cagle

Other things that I’m passionate about include cats, dogs, social and environmental justice, languages, travel, camping, and avocados.

My writing has been published by, among others, the New York Times, the Guardian, the AtlanticSlate, the New Statesman, ViceDie Zeit, Japan Spotlight, MIT Technology Review, and Al Jazeera. I have contributed chapters to several books. Once upon a time, I wrote a travel guide to Morocco. I have conducted grant reviews for at least four foundations and am keen to do more of that sort of work. I have served on the program committees of the re:publica and RightsCon conferences and consulted on the 2018 documentary The Cleaners. I am also featured prominently in the film #ChicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator, and the Alex Winter documentary, The YouTube Effect. Here’s an interview with me that I particularly like.

Photo: Vandana Aneja. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Photo: Vandana Aneja. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Prior to joining the EFF, I worked at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University on a number of projects, including the OpenNet Initiative and Herdict Web. In 2009, I co-founded Talk Morocco, which was a winner of Deutsche Welle’s Best of Blogs (BOBs) competition in 2010. From 2011 to 2017, I served on the board of Global Voices Online, an incredible citizen media project and from 2014 to 2023, I served on the IFEX Council. In 2011 was named to Foreign Policy Magazine’s Top 100 ‘Twitterati’ list. In San Francisco, I was a member of the Future Soul Think Tank at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

I currently serve on the advisory boards of several projects and organizations, including the Open Tech Fund. With my friend Katherine Maher, I used to host a webshow called Interrobang‽ on I have a BA in Sociology from Binghamton University, and attended THNK, the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership.

My Twitter feed was once (aptly, if I do say so myself) called “Grim reality mixed with activism, humanism, feminism and a dash of humor.” These days you can instead mostly find me on Bluesky.

If you want to understand a little about my life, this quote from Cory Doctorow describes it well.

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and website.  The opinions expressed here represent my own and not and not those of the Electronic Frontier Foundation or any other organization with which I am affiliated.  Additionally, I am human, and as such, my views are subject to change.

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