Jillian C. York is a writer, activist, researcher, and blogger. She serves as Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and writes for several platforms, including Al Jazeera English and The Guardian. She is also a volunteer representative for the Global Voices Board of Directors.
I spoke with Jillian about her freedom of expression activism, her role at Global Voices and her time spent in Morocco.
Global Voices (GV): How and when did you learn about Global Voices?
Jillian C. York (JY): I learned about Global Voices back in 2007 because they quoted my blog! I was looking at my pingbacks and noticed that my blog at the time (The Morocco Report, which I’d started when I moved to Morocco) was quoted, and so after reading the story and checking out the site, I got in touch with the editor (Amira Al Hussaini) and asked if I could volunteer.
GV: What do you do these days for Global Voices?
JY: Right now, it varies greatly from day to day, week to week. I write sometimes about different countries in the Middle East, or the US (where I’m from), and soon perhaps Europe (where I now live). I occasionally write for Advox, and most importantly, I represent community issues to the board and help with board and GV core team tasks.
GV: What were your duties as community representative to the board?
JY: As a community representative to the Board, my main function is to make sure that authors’ concerns and ideas are heard by the core staff and the members of the Board. If an author is unhappy or feels unheard, it can affect the entire community.
GV: What’s your day job outside of Global Voices?
JY: I work for a US-based non-profit organization called the Electronic Frontier Foundation. There, I direct our programs on freedom of expression around the world. One thing that I’m working on right now is a project called OnlineCensorship.org, that aims to collect data on non-state censorship happening on social networks.
GV: You define yourself as an activist. What does that imply and how does this impact the way you see the world?
JY: I’m mainly a free speech activist, although the reasons for that are because I believe that only by enabling free expression can individuals make their voices heard and create change around other important issues. This is not to say that I’m not political, rather, this is the means through which I relate to politics.
GV: Would you like to tell us something about the time you spent in Morocco?
JY: Sure – I really miss it so much. I’ve been fortunate enough to return for visits twice and am hoping to again next year.
Morocco is really a beautiful country – it’s often described, obnoxiously, by travel writers as being at the “crossroads of east and west” or “traditional and modern at the same time.” Although I find these clichés annoying, there’s some truth to them, in that Morocco and its culture are indeed full of what would, on the surface, appear to be contradictions. That said, I didn’t find it too difficult to live there, and I really fell in love with the people.
GV: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s amazing to see Global Voices grow to where it is now. I wasn’t there from the beginning—as I said, I joined in 2007—but even seven years later, we’re the same organization at heart despite our massive growth!