Home>Camille François: Digital Disinformation, Cybersecurity, and “Meeting the Moment”


Camille François: Digital Disinformation, Cybersecurity, and “Meeting the Moment”

On Tuesday, November 28, 2023, Ambassador of France Laurent Bili welcomed the Sciences Po American Foundation and our guests to the Résidence de France in Washington D.C. On this occasion, we honored Camille François (‘11) with the 2023 US Sciences Po Alumni Award, recognizing her exceptional commitment to bridging the gap between the social sciences and STEM and her many contributions to the fields of digital technologies.

François was interviewed by Clément Wolf, Google’s Head of Information Quality & AI Strategy, Trust & Safety. During their discussion, François and Wolf evoked themes of digital disinformation and cybersecurity, and the important role of the transatlantic connection between France and the United States.

François, currently working with three hats- in the private sector with Niantic, the public sector with the French government, and academia with Columbia and Sciences Po- emphasized the importance of approaching emerging technologies with this multilateral viewpoint. Her research and expertise on the socio-technical impact of digital technologies has led to her continued work from multiple vantage points, working with the US Senate, the French government, and in academia to shape the industry’s knowledge of potential socio-technical harms.

During her time at Google, Francois was witness to the tail-end of the Trust & Safety field’s development, during what she described as the moment “Silicon Valley started reckoning with geopolitics”. Throughout her development in the field, the industry has gone from a high degree of separation between content moderation teams and teams responsible for high-level geopolitical cyber security threats, to an understanding that both disciplines must come together to recognize the blind spot where the two moderation tactics intersect.

Today, as Global Director of Trust & Safety at Niantic, François leads a team managing “safety by design” for Niantic’s products, testing and tweaking the design of their experiences to discover any vulnerabilities that exist and mitigate any possible harmful uses. The broader team is split into disciplines, like Child Safety, focused on addressing harms specific to a more defined group of users.

In her new role as co-lead of the Etats généraux de l’information, an independent steering committee assembled by President Macron, François and her co-lead Maria Ressa will delve into democracy and AI during the pivotal year of 2024. With a number of critical global elections throughout the year (54 total in countries including the US, Taiwan, India, and Indonesia), the committee will answer the (urgent) questions from the industry to ensure new and existing technologies do not become tools in the hands of individual and systemic “bad actors”.

Wolf’s conclusion to François asked a question on the public’s minds: why, in this quickly changing world on the “dark[est] corners of the internet”, should we be optimistic? According to François, “we’re making progress.” The field of Trust & Safety was not even recognized ten years ago. Now, her colleagues are “leading a new generation.” François herself has the privilege of teaching the new leaders in the field. The tech industry continues to build on this new knowledge and material. The imperatives facing the industry are to build knowledge and defenses quickly enough. But, she states, many of her colleagues in Silicon Valley, academia, journalism, and regulation are “meeting the moment”.