Contact Yaël For Booking
Yaël Eisenstat | Former National Security Official |  Former Facebook Elections Integrity Head | Future of Democracy Fellow at Berggruen Institute
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Yaël Eisenstat is a democracy activist exploring the real-world effects of technology on our public discourse. After spending 18 years in national security and global affairs—as a CIA officer, a diplomat, and a White House advisor—Eisenstat became concerned with how social media was driving political polarization and division. So, she took a job at Facebook, aiming to protect the integrity of political advertising for elections worldwide. Eisenstat soon realized she wasn’t going to change the company from within, and today, she is a high-powered advocate for transparency and accountability in tech. Empowering and actionable, her talks show us a path forward for protecting our citizens, our democracy, and our future.

“We must strive to love our country more than we hate our neighbor.”

— Yaël Eisenstat

When former CIA analyst Yaël Eisenstat realized she could have easier conversations with suspected extremists overseas than she could with her fellow Americans on hot-button issues, she started to fear that the breakdown of public discourse was a greater threat to our democracy than any foreign adversary. Determined to reverse this course, she took a job as Global Head of Elections Integrity Ops at Facebook—a company she believed was a huge part of the problem, by enabling inflammatory rhetoric, spreading fake news and conspiracy theories, and amplifying dangerous hate speech. In her immensely powerful Ted Talk “Dear Facebook, this is how you’re breaking democracy,” Eisenstat reveals her experience inside the tech behemoth and how, despite her recommendations, the company continued to resist meaningful change in the interest of profit. “As long as algorithms’ goals are to keep us engaged, they will continue to feed us the poison that plays to our worst instincts and human weaknesses,” she says. In her work today, Eisenstat shows us how we can bridge the gap between government and tech, helping us foster an information ecosystem that uplifts and empowers us, rather than manipulates, exploits, and divides us.

 

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 a Visiting Fellow at Cornell Tech's Digital Life Initiative, Eisenstat is now the Future of Democracy Fellow at Berggruen Institute. There, she will focus on what open, democratic debate looks like in the digital world, and how we can change the incentives that helped social media rise to dominance in our public spaces—replacing them with democratic principles.

 

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.

 

Testimonials

“The Surrey Board of Trade was honored to present Yaël Eisenstat to our Surrey Women in Business Awards audience. Her speech was fascinating as I and the audience listened to all of her career accomplishments. When she said the words about knowing your worth and value no matter what, that resonated with me and the audience. The message about standing up for what you believe in even if it means you have to make difficult choices also resonated. Yaël was amazing!”

Surrey Board of Trade

Speech Topics

Politics & Society
The Ugly Truth How To Hold Social Media Accountable for Undermining Democracy
Yaël Eisenstat is one of the few former Facebook employees who is loudly and unapologetically sounding the alarm on the dangers of social media and its impact on our democracy. In her TED Talk, her viral op-eds, and the groundbreaking book An Ugly Truth: Behind Facebook’s Battle for Domination, for which she was extensively interviewed, Eisenstat boldly tackles the very real consequences that tech companies have on societies and democracies around the world. The way social media companies are currently constructed is antithetical to the concept of reasoned discourse. Even events like the recent storming of the U.S. Capitol are hardly surprising if you’ve followed the rise of misinformation, conspiracy theorizing, and hate happening online. So, where do we go from here?

With two decades of experience in the public sector, Eisenstat has a unique vantage point for  understanding these critical issues. It’s up to us, our advocacy, and our activism to create meaningful change, she says. This vital talk, presented by a true change-maker, reveals powerful ideas for how government and society should hold tech companies accountable—stopping them from ceding our public square to for-profit interests.
Leadership
Grit and Grace Women Leading in Male-Dominated Worlds
Too often, women in leadership feel pressure to hide their emotions at work for fear of being labelled hysterial or unfit to lead. But Yaël Eisenstat, a former intelligence officer who now advocates for transparency in tech, reveals how vulnerability can actually be a superpower for women in positions of power. You don’t have to be “one of the boys” to lead the boys, she says.
 
In this inspiring talk, Eisenstat shares her journey through some high-pressure roles, both at home and abroad, where she was often the only woman at the table. From the CIA, to countering extremism overseas, advising on national security issues at the White House, and tackling the threat of elections integrity at Facebook, she shares lessons on how to balance the grit and the grace of being a woman leader in traditionally male-dominated spaces. Eisenstat speaks of being knocked down and getting back up; of successes and disappointments she encountered along the way; and of the compromises she has made to balance succeeding in a man’s world with maintaining her own sense of self. As one of the so-called “Cassandras” of the past decade, who warned of so many of the dangers that we now know to be true, Eisenstat has made a vow to continue speaking out, taking up space, and delivering the work. This presentation, designed to help empower women in leadership, does just that.
Politics & Society
With Great Power Comes...No Responsibility? Who is Responsible for the Real-World Consequences of Tech?
The breakdown of civil discourse is more than just the loss of polite society—it’s a genuine threat to our national security. As a former intelligence officer and U.S. diplomat, Yaël Eisenstat felt alarmed by the growing social and political rifts happening throughout America. Even more concerning? The way the Internet, and social media, was contributing to this divide. Eisenstat grappled with the question of who was responsible for the real-world consequences of tech, particularly as it impacted our democracy. With the danger at home steadily rising, she believed her experience in the public sector could help fill a gap in Silicon Valley’s talent pool—and chip away at the ways tech enabled polarization and election hacking. She took a job as the Global Head of Elections Integrity Operations at Facebook, working inside a company she felt played a major role in threatening democracy.
 
In a talk that is both eye-opening and essential, Eisenstat shares the lessons she learned from her time in the national security world and at Facebook, her perspective on government’s role in regulating tech, and finally, ideas on how all of us can contribute to the united America we want to build.