Dan Keyserling has traveled far from the basement of Newcomb Hall since graduating from the University in 2008.
The newly elected member of the Cavalier Daily Alumni Association Board of Directors is now the head of communications and a senior advisor at Jigsaw, the big ideas incubator for Google parent company Alphabet.
It’s a job that’s taken him to Cuba, Afghanistan, Chad, Kenya, Rwanda, Côte D’Ivoire, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and beyond. His team has a single charge: How can technology make people in the world safer?
“I met with the leaders of these countries to understand their priorities and their interests, [and] to convey the values of Google — from defending free speech to empowering an independent press,” Keyserling said.
Last week, Jigsaw launched Perspective, a piece of code that uses artificial intelligence to identify “toxic” online comments. The interface aims to crack down on online harassment and help news organizations keep their comment sections troll-free.
The team has been testing a version of the technology with The New York Times, which sorts through up to 11,000 comments each day on only a small fraction of its articles, according to an Alphabet release.
The potential for the tool to support media organizations is not lost on Keyserling, who served as executive editor of The Cavalier Daily as a student.
He described working at the paper as a “formative experience” of his life.
“It’s probably the most intense working environment I’ve ever had, and I’ve driven down the streets of Kabul in full body armor,” Keyserling said.
After graduating from U.Va. with a major in political and social thought, Keyserling helped run communications at Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics. He also assisted Sabato with his 2009 book “The Year of Obama: How Barack Obama Won the White House.”
Following a brief stint at The New York Times’ communications office, Keyserling went to work for Google. He was one of the first employees on the Google Ideas team — an upstart that eventually grew into Jigsaw.
“Google Ideas was created to use technology to address some of the world’s most pressing geopolitical challenges,” Keyserling said. “Everything from terrorism to censorship.”
It’s an exciting and demanding job — but he hasn’t forgotten about the CD.
“The late nights huddling with the rest of the managing board is probably the most fun at work I’ve ever had and ever will have,” Keyserling said.