Steven Feldstein

Senior Fellow
Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program
tel 202-997-1255
Steven Feldstein is a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where he focuses on issues of democracy, technology, human rights, U.S. foreign policy, and Africa.


JD, Berkeley School of Law
AB, Princeton University


English; French


Steven Feldstein is a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where he focuses on issues of democracy, technology, human rights, U.S. foreign policy, and Africa. He previously served as the holder of the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs and an associate professor at Boise State University.

Feldstein served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau in the U.S. Department of State, where he had responsibility for Africa policy, international labor affairs, and international religious freedom. Previously he was the director of policy at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and also served as counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where he oversaw U.S. foreign assistance programs, State Department management, and international organizations.

He has published research on how artificial intelligence is reshaping repression, the geopolitics of technology, China’s role in advancing digital authoritarianism, and COVID-19’s effect on democracies. He also released a global AI surveillance index to track the proliferation of advanced big data tools used by governments. 

Feldstein’s articles and essays have appeared in American Purpose, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Journal of Democracy, Just Security, MIT Technology Review, The Conversation, the National Interest, War on the Rocks, the Washington Post, and World Politics Review. He is a frequent commentator on television and radio. He received his B.A. from Princeton and his J.D. from Berkeley Law.
He is the author of The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance (Oxford University Press, 2021).

  • Graffiti of a girl painting graffiti about One Nation Under CCTV while a policeman watches
    October 19, 2021
    Issues on the Frontlines of Technology and Politics

    Global political trends in recent years have put to rest any illusions that the relationship between technological innovation and progress in democratic politics would be largely positive. Digital technology is disrupting international politics in myriad ways.

  • Op-Ed American Purpose September 1, 2021
    Can Democracy Survive the “Splinternet?”

    Autocrats have bent the internet to serve anti-democratic purposes. Can democracies halt their march?

  • Op-Ed United States Institute of Peace July 21, 2021
    Digital Technology’s Evolving Role in Politics, Protest and Repression

    Digital tools offer many uses, both for civic activists to communicate with like-minded individuals to protest governments, as well as for regimes to track dissenters and government critics (and to act accordingly).

  • Op-Ed Foreign Policy March 13, 2021
    Are Telegram and Signal Havens for Right-Wing Extremists?

    Since the violent storming of Capitol Hill and subsequent ban of former U.S. President Donald Trump from Facebook and Twitter, the removal of Parler from Amazon’s servers, and the de-platforming of incendiary right-wing content, messaging services Telegram and Signal have seen a deluge of new users.

  • Op-Ed World Politics Review March 9, 2021
    How Biden Can Stand With Hong Kong

    The national security law in Hong Kong was designed to crack down on pro-democracy protests and restore government control to the restive city. Before the coronavirus pandemic temporarily quieted political activity, Hong Kongers had spent months organizing vast demonstrations in the streets.

  • Op-Ed Project Syndicate February 10, 2021
    Democracy Dies in Disinformation

    President Joe Biden says he wants to renew America’s democratic alliances. His administration writes about fighting kleptocracy and climate change, conquering inequality, and standing up for human rights.

  • How Middle-Power Democracies Can Help Renovate Global Democracy Support
    Paper February 4, 2021
    How Middle-Power Democracies Can Help Renovate Global Democracy Support

    Middle-power democracies should not tread water while waiting for the United States to address its own democratic crisis. They must help revamp global democracy support using their comparative strengths.

  • Op-Ed Council on Foreign Relations November 30, 2020
    How Should Democracies Confront China’s Digital Rise? Weighing the Merits of a T-10 Alliance

    With President-Elect Joe Biden’s election victory, foreign policy experts are debating what a pivot from four years of America First isolationism should entail.

  • How to Tackle Europe’s Digital Democracy Challenges
    Article October 15, 2020
    How to Tackle Europe’s Digital Democracy Challenges

    The EU is poised to release new policies to bolster democracy in a digital age. How well these policies fare will depend on how well Europe tackles domestic challenges to democracy.

  • State Surveillance and Implications for Children
    Op-Ed UNICEF August 30, 2020
    State Surveillance and Implications for Children

    In today's digital era, governments are increasingly relying on digital surveillance technology to support national security and public order priorities.

  • Undercurrents August 27, 2021
    How Digital Technologies Are Enabling State Repression

    A conversation on how digital technologies are enabling state repression in both authoritarian and liberal states.

  • Global Pathways Podcast with Ray Offenheiser July 14, 2021
    The Rise of Digital Repression

    It was really important to better understand, in a more systemic way, how are these technologies being used, how are they interacting and shaping some of the larger trends we are seeing, in particular when it comes to democracy and human rights idea.

  • Vox Conversations June 10, 2021
    Digital Dictatorship

    The internet was first conceived as a tool to promote free expression, to foster and enliven debate, and to strengthen democratic ideals. But it didn’t quite work out that way.

  • Undispatch June 7, 2021
    The Dictator’s “Digital Dilemma”

    Digital repression is on the rise. Governments around the world have used tools like mass surveillance, internet blocking and disinformation to stay in power. This includes both autocratic governments and weak or illiberal democracies.

  • CSPAN May 12, 2021

    Basically the ways in which technology is being used to, via coercion and other means, accomplish political goals, particularly for leaders who are not democratic and have anti-democratic aspirations.

  • Al Jazeera March 31, 2021
    Is Ethiopia Hurtling Towards All-Out Ethnic Conflict?

    Delicate political agreements and relationships across ethnic lines in Ethiopia are in danger of unraveling, activists and experts say, prompting fears of a full-blown ethnic war.

  • Bloomberg January 7, 2021
    More Strategic Policies From Biden on China

    U.S. policy expert discusses the decoupling in the capital markets of China and the U.S., relations with China under the Biden administration and the battle with China over tech.

  • Bloomberg January 7, 2021
    Trump Will Likely Stay in Office Until Jan. 20

    U.S. domestic policy expert discusses the attack on Capitol Hill, and the future of the Republican Party.

  • KTVB7 May 31, 2020
    Coronavirus’ Impact on Foreign Relations and Diplomacy

    A discussion of foreign relations amid the pandemic.

  • NPR May 21, 2020
    Is COVID-19 Threatening Democracies? This Boise State Professor Is Watching Closely

    The coronavirus pandemic is uncharted territory for most everyone. And among all the newness, this disease and the way that countries are dealing with it are presenting a whole new set of academic questions.

  • Digital Repression: Confronting the Online Challenge
    October 19, 2021 Live Online
    Digital Repression: Confronting the Evolving Challenge

    To address issues of digital repression, the Carnegie Endowment has assembled the Digital Democracy Network—a diverse group of cutting-edge thinker-activists engaged in work on technology and politics. This event marks the launch of the network’s first compilation and their effort to describe challenges to governance posed by digital technology.

  • The Rise of Digital Repression
    April 29, 2021 Live Online
    The Rise of Digital Repression

    Rapid innovation in digital technology has ushered in a new era of political repression. Regimes seek novel ways to control, manipulate, surveil, and disrupt real or perceived internal threats.

  • A Conversation with the Facebook Oversight Board – the Trump Ban and the Future of Online
    February 11, 2021 Live Online
    A Conversation with the Oversight Board – Facebook’s Trump Ban and the Future of Online Speech

    Last year, Facebook set up the Oversight Board as an independent body to review its content moderation decisions and make binding judgments about its policies. The Board is now poised to consider one of the most significant questions: should Donald Trump’s Facebook account remain suspended?

  • December 2, 2020 Live Online
    Global Regulation of Digital Technology and Surveillance

    The emergence of digital technology, including AI-enabled tools, has given states an ever-greater ability to monitor and surveil the activities of its citizens. State responses to the coronavirus pandemic—in both autocracies and democracies—have exacerbated concerns about infringements of civil liberties and privacy.

  • The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the Century
    November 16, 2020 Live Online
    The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the Century

    In a new book, The Emperor's New Road, Jonathan E. Hillman warns that China is repeating the mistakes of previous great powers, and he reveals the perils of Beijing’s global push toward being the center of everything.

  • Watching the Watchers -- Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age
    October 28, 2020 Live Online
    Watching the Watchers: Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age

    There are innumerable examples where digital technology has helped stem the tide of illiberalism and has empowered citizen activists to take down corrupt governments and challenge despotic regimes.

  • The Rise of Technonationalism and Consequences for the International Order
    October 15, 2020 Live Online
    The Rise of Technonationalism and Consequences for International Order

    Differences in the role of the state, political freedoms and human rights, wealth distribution, and scientific and technological capacity are changing the international order. The COVID-19 pandemic has further magnified these trends.

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