Zeynep Tufekci

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Zeynep Tufekci
Zeynep Tufekci crop.jpeg
Tufekci in 2019
Istanbul, Turkey
Years active1999–present
TitleAssociate Professor
Academic background
EducationIstanbul University
Bosphorus University
University of Texas at Austin
Academic work
Sub-disciplineSocial media
InstitutionsUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The New York Times
The Atlantic

Zeynep Tufekci (Turkish: Zeynep Tüfekçi; [zejˈnep tyˈfektʃi]; zay-NEP tuu-FEK-chee) is a sociologist and a writer, and a columnist for The New York Times. Her work focuses on the social implications of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data, as well as societal challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic using complex and systems-based thinking. She has been described as "having a habit of being right on the big things" by The New York Times[1] and as one of the most prominent academic voices on social media and the new public sphere by The Chronicle of Higher Education.[2]

Before becoming a columnist, she was a writer for The New York Times and The Atlantic and has written regular columns for Wired and Scientific American in the past. She is a visiting professor at Columbia University's Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security, an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, and a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.[3][4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Tufekci was born in Istanbul, Turkey, near Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district.[6]

In 1995, Tufekci received a B.A. in sociology from Istanbul University, as well as an undergraduate degree in computer programming from Bogazici University.[7] In 1999, Tufekci received an M.A. from the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Her thesis was called "Mental Deskilling in the Age of the Smart Machine". In 2004, Tufekci earned a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Her thesis was titled "In Search of Lost Jobs: The Rhetoric and Practice of Computer Skills Training".


Tufekci worked as a computer programmer before becoming an academic and turning her attention to social science.[citation needed]

From 2005 to 2008, Tufekci was a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). From 2008 to 2011, she was an assistant professor at UMBC.

In 2011, Tufekci moved to North Carolina and became an assistant professor at UNC School of Information and Library Science as well as an adjunct assistant professor at the Department of Sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In 2012, Tufekci became a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society research facility at Harvard University.[8]

In 2012, Tufekci was one of the first to express concern about political campaigns impacted by and driven by big data in the form of "Smart Campaigns".[9] This early warning was eventually recognized as prescient after Donald Trump was elected in 2016.[4] Tufekci's research and publications include topics such as the effect of big data on politics and the public sphere,[10] how social media affects social movements, and the privacy and security vulnerabilities exposed by the coming Internet of Things. In general, she has sought to outline the potential negative societal consequences of social media and big data, while not rejecting these phenomena outright. Tufekci's work has often emphasized examining business models of these technologies. She often speaks about their use of engagement algorithms.[11][12]

Also from 2012, Tufekci has focused on explaining social contagion and mass shootings and its direct relation to social media.[13][14][15] She has repeatedly urged both online and in op-eds[16] that outlets should avoid repetition of the killer's name and face as well as step-by-step discussions of their methods.[17][18] The phenomenon of suicide contagion via social media and news coverage is part of Tufekci's analytical work.[19]

Tufekci has written on pandemic planning and social responses. In 2014 she wrote on Ebola and pandemic preparedness.[20]

In 2016, Tufekci was featured in a special report by The Economist on technology and politics in which she argues that the increasingly individualized targeting of voters by political campaigns is leading to a reduction of the "public sphere" in which civic debate takes place publicly.[21]

In May 2017, Tufekci's first book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, was published by Yale University Press.[22][23] The book is freely available under a Creative Commons license.

In the fall of 2017, Tufekci delivered a talk entitled "Democracy vs. Clickbait" at Dartmouth's Neukom Institute's Donoho Colloquium, where she said she had discovered in FCC filings that Facebook is only making about $10 to $20 USD per year per person. "Charge me that," she suggested, "and make me the customer."[24]

In January 2018, Tufekci wrote a cover story for Wired titled "It's the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech."[25] She was a regular contributor at Wired.[26]

In March 2018, Tufekci wrote in The New York Times that "YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century." She cited the rise of conspiracy videos during the Trump administration and especially after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.[27] Tufekci was a monthly contributor for The New York Times op-ed page on topics related to technology's social impact.

In 2018, Tufekci was interviewed as part of the PBS series, Frontline, on issues of disinformation and Russian interference with Ukraine on Facebook.[11]

As of February 2019, Tufekci has written for Scientific American, including one on sociological versus psychological storytelling about season 8 of Game of Thrones titled "The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones".[28]

In May 2019, Tufekci was featured as a speaker at the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security Symposium at the Columbia Journalism School on the subject of "Reporting from the Front Lines of the Information Wars".[29]

In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tufekci wrote numerous articles explaining the importance of flattening the curve,[30] the importance of mask wearing,[31][32] and academic articles covering the evidence for mask wearing.[33][34] Tufekci was critical of the mainstream media for failing to explain the importance of mask wearing, and is often cited as one of the first to take up the importance of mask wearing in the mainstream media.[35][36] This led to Tufekci becoming one of the academics who advised the WHO on adopting a mask recommendation.[37][38] Tufekci has also written articles advocating for the importance of outdoor spaces, encouraging beaches and parks to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic,[39][40] calling for clearer ventilation guidelines to mitigate the airborne transmission of COVID-19,[41] and also about advocating for a single-dose and/or delayed booster trial for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.[42] To capture the way some policy makers have resisted or mishandled safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, she coined “Zeynep’s law”, which reads: “Until there is substantial and repeated evidence otherwise, assume counterintuitive findings to be false, and second-order effects to be dwarfed by first-order ones in magnitude.” [43]

In addition to her mainstream media writing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tufekci has co-authored articles published in peer reviewed academic journals reviewing evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is airborne.[44][45] Her academic co-authors are interdisciplinary, and have included British medical professor, Trisha Greenhalgh,[44] and environmental engineering professor, Linsey Marr.[45] In an April 2021 "Head to Head" News and Views article in the British Medical Journal, accompanying a review, "Covid-19: What do we know about airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2?",[46] Tufekci and her co-authors argued against outdoor mask policy, and addressed how access to safer, ventilated, outdoor space is an equity issue.[47] COVID-19 has been shown to have had a disproportionately high impact on low-income, racialized groups.[48] The inexpensive Corsi-Rosenthal Box air filter unit was developed in August 2021 as one aspect of solutions for mitigating poor indoor ventilation.

Also in 2020, Tufekci was interviewed as part of the WNYC-FM radio series On the Media. She criticized the mainstream media's over-reliance on opinion polling and psephology in advance of the 2020 United States elections, arguing flawed polling helped sway the public into voting for more harmful candidates, which forecast models did not take into account.[49] She urged for more limited use of both. Tufekci was also interviewed on the BBC, WGBH, and Public Radio Exchange co-production The World. She stated that President Trump's refusal to concede the election to Joe Biden, along with his false claims of fraud sent signals, accelerated by social media and compounded by gerrymandering, that undermined the nation's democratic character in favor of bolstering authoritarianism and right-wing populism, and accelerating the democratic recession worldwide.[50]

Tufekci has given a series of TED talks on online social change, technology, the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the role of social media and tech companies.[51]

Honors and awards[edit]



  • Tufekci, Zeynep (2017). Twitter and tear gas : the power and fragility of networked protest. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Essays and reporting[edit]


  • Tufekci, Zeynep (1999). Mental Deskilling in the Age of the Smart Machine (M.A.). University of Texas at Austin.
  • Tufekci, Zeynep (2004). In Search of Lost Jobs: The Rhetoric and Practice of Computer Skills Training (PhD). University of Texas at Austin.

TED talks[edit]

Critical studies and reviews of Tufekci's work[edit]

Twitter and tear gas


  1. ^ Smith, Ben (2020-08-23). "How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  2. ^ Brown, Sarah. "Meet the Professor Who's Warning the World About Facebook and Google". www.chronicle.com. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  3. ^ a b Abbruzzese, Jason (3 November 2017). "Zeynep Tufekci tried to warn us about Facebook and politics back in 2012". Mashable.
  4. ^ Columbia Journalism School. "Dr. Zeynep Tufekci to Join Columbia Journalism School's Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security". March 25, 2021.
  5. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (9 June 2015). "Opinion: How Hope Returned to Turkey". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Zeynep Tufekci | sils.unc.edu". sils.unc.edu. University of North Carolina. Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  7. ^ "Zeynep Tufekci, Faculty Associate". Berkman Klein Center. Harvard University. 24 March 2020.
  8. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (16 November 2012). "Opinion: Beware the Smart Campaign". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (7 July 2014). "Engineering the public: Big data, surveillance and computational politics". First Monday. 19 (7). doi:10.5210/FM.V19i7.4901.
  10. ^ a b Jacoby, James (22 May 2018). "The Frontline Interview: Zeynep Tufekci". Frontline.
  11. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (17 December 2018). "Yes, Big Platforms Could Change Their Business Models". Wired.
  12. ^ Frank, Russell (16 February 2018). "The media need to think twice about how they portray mass shooters". The Conversation.
  13. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (19 December 2012). "The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders. Here's How". The Atlantic.
  14. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (27 August 2015). "Opinion: The Virginia Shooter Wanted Fame. Let's Not Give It to Him". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Lopez, German (28 August 2015). "Mass shooters want fame. Here's why we should stop giving it to them". Vox.
  16. ^ "Texas police stop naming killer in aftermath of shootings, hoping to discourage copycats". CBC News. Associated Press. 7 November 2017.
  17. ^ Schulman, Ari N. (17 November 2017). "How Not to Cover Mass Shootings". Wall Street Journal.
  18. ^ Lopatto, Elizabeth (27 August 2015). "How do we stop killers from exploiting social media?". The Verge.
  19. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (30 October 2014). "Ebola: The Real Reason Everyone Should Panic". Medium.
  20. ^ "Special report: Politics by numbers: Voters in America, and increasingly elsewhere too, are being ever more precisely targeted". The Economist. 23 March 2016.
  21. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (2017). Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. New Haven, London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-21512-0. OCLC 1156747307.
  22. ^ Heller, Nathan (14 August 2017). "Is There Any Point to Protesting? We turn out in the streets and nothing seems to happen. Maybe we're doing it wrong". The New Yorker.
  23. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (Fall 2017). "Democracy vs. Clickbait". Fall 2017 Donoho Colloquium. The Neukom Institute at Dartmouth.
  24. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (16 January 2018). "It's the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech". Wired.
  25. ^ "Zeynep Tufekci". WIRED Magazine. 2019.
  26. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (10 March 2018). "Opinion: YouTube, the Great Radicalizer". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (17 May 2019). "The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones". Scientific American.
  28. ^ Coll, Steve; Folkenflik, David; Ressa, Maria; Schachtman, Noah; Green, Yasmin; Bell, Emily; McBride, Kelly; Tufekci, Zeynep (9 May 2019). "Reporting from the Front Lines of the Information Wars". Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security Symposium. Columbia Journalism School.
  29. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (27 February 2020). "Preparing for Coronavirus to Strike the U.S." Scientific American.
  30. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (17 March 2020). "Opinion: Why Telling People They Don't Need Masks Backfired". The New York Times.
  31. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep; Howard, Jeremy; Greenhalgh, Trisha (22 April 2020). "The Real Reason to Wear a Mask". The Atlantic.
  32. ^ Howard, Jeremy; Huang, Austin; Li, Zhiyuan; Tufekci, Zeynep; Zdimal, Vladimir; van der Westhuizen, Helene-Mari; von Delft, Arne; Price, Amy; Fridman, Lex; Tang, Lei-Han; Tang, Viola; Watson, Gregory L.; Bax, Christina E.; Shaikh, Reshama; Questier, Frederik; Hernandez, Danny; Chu, Larry F.; Ramirez, Christina M.; Rimoin, Anne W. (26 January 2021). "An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118 (4): e2014564118. doi:10.1073/pnas.2014564118. PMC 7848583. PMID 33431650.
  33. ^ Klein, Ezra (2021-02-02). "Opinion | To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-02.
  34. ^ Meylan, Phillip (31 March 2020). "Did the Media Miss the Mark on Masks?". The Factual.
  35. ^ Witte, Griff; Cha, Ariana Eunjung; Dawsey, Josh (28 July 2020). "At the heart of dismal U.S. coronavirus response, a fraught relationship with masks". The Washington Post.
  36. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep [@zeynep] (29 July 2020). "I forgot to add yes, I pointed all of this out to the WHO in two meetings with the mask committee, some of the same studies and the logic of why we would not expect a false sense of security like that. This is a review article, so the evidence was already available back in March<" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  37. ^ Smith, Ben (2020-08-23). "How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  38. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (7 April 2020). "Keep the Parks Open: Public green spaces are good for the immune system and the mind—and they can be rationed to allow for social distancing". The Atlantic.
  39. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (4 July 2020). "Scolding Beachgoers Isn't Helping". The Atlantic.
  40. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep (2020-07-30). "We Need to Talk About Ventilation". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  41. ^ Tufekci, Zeynep; Mina, Michael (2020-12-18). "Opinion | Can We Do Twice as Many Vaccinations as We Thought?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  42. ^ zeynep. "Open Thread: Here's Hoping We Don't Need Luck As Much in 2022, 1/5/2022 edition". www.theinsight.org. Retrieved 2022-01-06.
  43. ^ a b Greenhalgh, Trisha; Jimenez, Jose L; Prather, Kimberly A; Tufekci, Zeynep; Fisman, David; Schooley, Robert (May 2021). "Ten scientific reasons in support of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2". The Lancet. 397 (10285): 1603–1605. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(21)00869-2. ISSN 0140-6736. PMC 8049599. PMID 33865497.
  44. ^ a b Wang, Chia C.; Prather, Kimberly A.; Sznitman, Josué; Jimenez, Jose L.; Lakdawala, Seema S.; Tufekci, Zeynep; Marr, Linsey C. (2021-08-27). "Airborne transmission of respiratory viruses". Science. 373 (6558): eabd9149. Bibcode:2021Sci...373.....W. doi:10.1126/science.abd9149. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 34446582. S2CID 237308712.
  45. ^ Baraniuk, Chris (2021-04-22). "Covid-19: What do we know about airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2?". BMJ. 373: n1030. doi:10.1136/bmj.n1030. ISSN 1756-1833. PMID 33888460. S2CID 233328172.
  46. ^ Javid, Babak; Bassler, Dirk; Bryant, Manuel B.; Cevik, Muge; Tufekci, Zeynep; Baral, Stefan (2021-04-28). "Should masks be worn outdoors?". BMJ. 373: n1036. doi:10.1136/bmj.n1036. ISSN 1756-1833. PMID 33910914. S2CID 233430089.
  47. ^ Pagliaro, Jennifer (2020-07-30). "New Toronto data reveals COVID-19's disproportionate toll on racialized and low-income groups". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  48. ^ Garfield, Bob (6 November 2020). "The Forecasts Didn't Help Us". On the Media. WNYC Studios. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  49. ^ Hackel, Joyce; Werman, Marco (12 November 2020). "Democracy's global beacon dims". The World. PRX. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  50. ^ a b Abbruzzese, Jason (3 November 2017). "Zeynep Tufekci tried to warn us about Facebook and politics back in 2012". Mashable.
  51. ^ "Top Eight Papers in Communication and Technology, Part 2". International Communication Association. 29 May 2005.
  52. ^ "Berkman Center Announces 2011-2012 Fellows". The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. 12 June 2018.
  53. ^ "Fellows: Zeynep Tufekci (2012-2014)". Center for Information Technology Policy. Princeton University. 2012.
  54. ^ Borison, Rebecca (14 April 2014). "Presenting: The 100 Most Influential Tech People On Twitter; 99. Zeynep Tufekci". Business Insider.
  55. ^ "Section on Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology Past Award Recipients". American Sociological Association. 2014.
  56. ^ "2015 Andrew Carnegie Fellows Recipient: Zeynep Tufekci". Carnegie Corporation of New York. 2015.
  57. ^ Online version is titled "Is there any point to protesting?"

External links[edit]