New partnership brings election cybersecurity initiative to Nebraska

New partnership brings election cybersecurity initiative to Nebraska

Friday, July 24, 2020 - 8:45am

In June 2020, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications joined the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center (NGTC). The Center, housed in the College of Law, was established in partnership with the Colleges of Business and Engineering in February 2020. The Center was founded to examine the ever-changing relationship between law and technology. 

"The addition of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications to the NGTC was a natural fit," said Dean Veil, Dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. "Issues of technology and law transcend our disciplines, and our faculty are well-positioned to provide additional insight into the development of scholarship in this area."

Justin Hurwitz, Associate Professor of Law and NGTC Director, concurs, "Journalists and media scholars have as much to add-- so many disruptive technologies are communications and media technologies." 

Also in June 2020, Gary Kebbel, professor of journalism, was contacted by Adam Clayton Powell III, Executive Director of the University of Southern (USC) Election Cybersecurity Initiative. Powell was seeking a university partner to provide training to campaigns, election workers, policymakers and concerned citizens to keep elections safe from cybersecurity threats. The proposal aligned with the mission of the NGTC, and a collaboration was formed to offer training in Nebraska.

A virtual panel discussion was held on June 18, 2020. It included speakers from the USC Election Cyber Security Initiative, the Nebraska Secretary of State's office, the UNL College of Law, and Gary Kebbel and Rick Alloway, professors from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. 

"The event showed how journalism and communication issues stand at the intersection of the legal and policy issues that new technology creates," Kebbel said. "We're both concerned that technology often outpaces our ability to think about it and place ethical boundaries around it."

In addition to this initial event, the NGTC will pursue several initiatives to spur scholarship on the relationship between law and technology. This fall, the NGTC will launch a podcast series bringing together scholars and practitioners to discuss and debate the latest research. The Center will also recruit faculty fellows to contribute their research to the Center's goals. The first cohort will consist of 20 faculty fellows from across the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who will have the opportunity to learn and engage with colleagues in other fields through a series of workshops. 

The Center hopes that these workshops help normalize interdisciplinary engagement across campus and lead to a more natural practice of research collaborations across multiple disciplines.

The Center will also offer courses in multiple departments that will be open to students no matter their major. The NGCT has also appointed student fellows across campus. These students will have the opportunity to participate in the Center's events, engage with faculty, and explore unique research and networking opportunities.

The Center recently received a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to focus on research that informs the public on current issues in technology policy. Some of the issues that align with CoJMC's teachings include technology's role in democracy, the power of digital platforms and free expression, and the importance of making evidence-based decisions with access to an overwhelming amount of information.

"We are excited about the possibilities our participation in the Center will offer our faculty and students to contribute to cutting edge interdisciplinary scholarship," said Dean Veil. 

USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative
USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative