My name is Renée DiResta. I'm the technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, a cross-disciplinary program of research, teaching and policy engagement for the study of adversarial abuse in current information technologies. This means that I study the many ways that people attempt to manipulate, harass, or target others online. Sometimes that's influence operations, sometimes it's spam and scams, child safety issues, or novel ways of abusing generative AI technology. The internet is an ecosystem, and these things are interconnected: new technologies transform old problems.

A lot of my work focuses on rumors and propaganda, and in understanding how narratives spread across social and media networks. Often we talk about this primarily as a problem of platform algorithms, but people—all of us—play a big role in determining what goes viral. I'm interested in the interplay between influencers, algorithms, and online crowds. I'm interested in the intersection of technology and trust, whether that's related to the dynamics of health misinformation, the spread of conspiracy theories, or the ways in which propagandists exploit societal divisions.

I do research into novel and rapidly-developing problems, then communicate findings both to the public and to those best positioned to mitigate them. Over the years I've briefed world leaders and government bodies. I've advised Congress, the State Department, and myriad academic, civil society, and business organizations on the mechanics of online manipulation in its many forms, including computational propaganda, conspiracy theories, terrorist activity, and state-sponsored information warfare. 


In 2018, at the behest of the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I led an investigation into the Russian Internet Research Agency’s multi-year effort to manipulate American society. I also presented public testimony. A year later, I led an additional investigation into influence capabilities that the GRU used alongside its hack-and-leak operations in the 2016 election.

I joined Stanford Internet Observatory in June of 2019, with the immediate goal of developing a deeper understanding of state actor disinformation campaigns as they played out all over the world. Russia's military intelligence agency - the GRU - and mercenary organizations such as Wagner Group were an early focus, as was China's growing outward-facing narrative manipulation capacity. I developed a model of full-spectrum propaganda, examining how state actors incorporated social media into their existing broadcast propaganda capacity, spanning the overt to covert spectrum. I've examined state actors spanning the globe for nearly a decade, including within the United States; my team produced a major report detecting some of the U.S. Pentagon's covert information operations, leading the Department of Defense to re-evaluate US government strategy. I've been a leader on major inter-institutional partnerships studying election rumors and disinformation, and served on the Lancet Commission in a multi-year project examining online drivers of vaccine hesitancy. I'm also proud of my contributions to SIO's incredible child safety work, particularly examining the intersection of child exploitation and generative AI, and crafting policy recommendations to address it.

Prior to joining Stanford Internet Observatory, my career spanned a few industries: tech startups, venture capital, and quantitative finance. I was the Director of Research at AI narrative analysis startup Yonder (acquired by Primer), and part of the founding team at supply chain logistics startup Haven (acquired by FourKites). Before moving into startups, I'd been a Principal at seed-stage venture capital fund O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV), where I invested in early-stage tech startups with a focus on hardware, manufacturing, and logistics. I wrote a book based on learnings from that job: The Hardware Startup: Building your Product, Business, and Brand, published by O’Reilly Media. Prior to VC and startups, I spent seven years on Wall Street as an equity derivatives trader and market maker at Jane Street, a top quantitative proprietary trading firm in New York City. I did not know SBF. And, since people on the internet love to talk about it: I had an undergraduate internship with the CIA.

The unifying theme across fields and jobs has been a love of high-intensity environments with big analytical challenges and incomplete information.

Assorted affiliations and honors include: degrees in Computer Science and Political Science from the Honors College at SUNY Stony Brook. 2019-2020 Emerson Fellow; 2018-2019 Mozilla Fellow; 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar; Council on Foreign Relations term member; Truman National Security Fellow. I have held affiliations with the Harvard Berkman-Klein Center, and the Columbia University Data Science Institute. I am a Founding Advisor to the Center for Humane Technology, and appeared in The Social Dilemma. I hold advisory or board roles with several technology startups. I'm very passionate about STEM education and childhood immunization advocacy, and in 2015 was one of the co-founders of parent advocacy organization Vaccinate California. For fun, I explore data sets and weird things online, love cooking, camping, and making things, and have 2 cats (Behemoth and Shadow) and a hydroponic garden. My husband, Justin Hileman, and I are the parents of three feisty little people.