For 3L Alyssa Coley, taking a selfie with Jack Dorsey, working in a log cabin office, sunbathing with her laptop on the rooftop terrace and shooting hoops in the game room were all just part of her day during her three-month internship at one of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech giants.
“At Twitter, you're always full,” Coley said. “Of course all summer long you are gaining the notorious ‘Twitter Twenty’ from visiting four floors of cafeterias, infinite plates of bacon, fully stocked micro-kitchens, froyo machines and juice bars. But, you are also always full of knowledge. It's not every day that interns get the opportunity to have lunch and a Q&A session with the CEO. Nor do they get to have roundtable breakfasts with the General Counsel or get one-on-one feedback on a project with the VP of Legal. Twitter really cares about making the "higher ups" accessible, and they set you up to take advantage of being able to use them as a resource during your time as an intern.”
Despite the infinite perks of interning at Twitter Headquarters in San Francisco, there’s more to the famous technology company than food, games and a famous leadership team. As an intern in the Trust & Safety department at Twitter, Coley is at the forefront of protecting privacy rights on the internet — a cause that Twitter is famous for.
“What really attracted me to pursuing this position was Twitter’s reputation as one of the first proponents of protecting user privacy rights and their commitment to freedom of expression,” Coley said. “Twitter has been a trailblazer in transparency for awhile now and continues to push the envelope. These principles are embodied in Twitter's core values: #DefendAndRespectTheUsersVoice #ReachEveryPersonOnThePlanet.”
Coley has seen first-hand how these policies have come into play during the recent uneven political and moral landscape across the world. With the recent elections, shootings and terrorist attacks, Twitter has been abuzz with users’ voices on the issues currently effecting our globe. Usually when something happens in the world, it happens first on Twitter where users go to report and talk about an issue before the news cameras even have time to show up. It’s up to Coley and her team at Twitter to monitor the conversations around these sensitive topics and ensure that nothing abusive or offensive is going up and that Twitter remains a safe space for controversial topics.
“It has been quite an interesting time to be working at Twitter,” Coley said. “Everyone on my team is so devoted to making the platform a safe space, and it's not always easy to be in their positions. Our team deals with sensitive issues everyday, nevertheless, everyone maintains a positive attitude and the Trust & Safety team all works together to support one another by focusing on the beneficial impact to our users and the impact on the world as a whole.”
During her internship at Twitter, Coley has not only monitored some of the world’s biggest news -- she’s also worked with several of Twitter’s policy teams on a broad range of topics that challenge her legal knowledge. Some days she’d research laws surrounding notice and takedown of requirements under trademark law and others she’d research the legality of advertising certain products in specific states or countries.
“Everyday is different and this is one of the benefits of working in-house,” Coley said. “You get to see how the law applies to all aspects of a growing business because you're not only advising that something has a legal risk, but you are also drawing a policy and privacy line within the company. I never could have understood the level of personal investment Twitter employees genuinely have in making the world a better place.”
Coley’s education at UC Hastings and it’s proximity to everything in the technology hub of San Francisco led to her success at landing a job at Twitter. At UC Hastings, her colleagues and professors had educational access to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, California Supreme Court and other district courts in addition to access to startups, tech giants and Silicon Valley. And it was at UC Hastings that Coley gained her love for Constitutional Law.
“I've found it incredibly fascinating to follow the application of first and fourth amendment constitutional principles, such as those that are applied in issues of government overreach and freedom of speech, to privacy controversies originating from rapid developments in technology,” Coley said. “This is intriguing to me because this area of law will always be up for interpretation no matter how far back the first application of these principles date. Often these tech giants like Twitter are the ones influencing developing law and making real change, so for me I wanted to focus on the policy side of legal work at Twitter and see how these decisions are being made and implemented on the ground.”
Coley honed in on her fascination with Constitutional Law in the practical, specialized courses UC Hastings offers such as “Data Privacy,” which helped her rock her interview at Twitter and ultimately land a dream internship that only a handful of law students across the nation would ever get the opportunity to have.
“In my 'Compliance: Privacy' course, our professor is one of the most respected names in privacy rights and cyber security,” Coley said. “Not only do UC Hastings students benefit from her direct experience and teaching, but we also have many guest speakers who are experts in various areas of privacy ranging from class actions, to in-house counsel (Laura Pirri from Twitter!) to government officials. Knowing more about the actual practice and integration of privacy law in a tech company really helped me show Twitter that I was interested, knowledgeable and able to contribute something to the team. I hope to one day be a Chief Privacy Officer in house at a tech company. While I say “a tech company,” I would LOVE to hold that role at Twitter.”