• Perspective: Truth decayThe Trolls Are Everywhere. Now What Are We Supposed to Do?

    Forget the decline of gatekeepers. Imagine a world bereft of gates and uncrossable lines, with no discernible rules. Andrew Marantz’s just published book, Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, offers a detailed and disturbing study of how the social media platforms, rolled out over the last decade by a group of nerdy but naïve Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, have been hijacked by “edge lords” — another name for a collection of nihilists, right-wing nationalists, conspiracy purveyors, white supremacists, and more, whose goal is to downgrade the discourse in a way that would soon corrode the entire system. “The ranking algorithms on social media laid out clear incentives: provoke as many activating emotions as possible; lie, spin, dog-whistle; drop red pill after red pill; step up to the line repeatedly, in creative new ways,” Marantz writes. Public discourse is being replaced by the dance of discord and enragement and noxiousness.

  • Perspective: China syndromeWe’re Underestimating China’s Impact on Governance in Latin America: Three Persistent Myths

    China’s growing engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in recent years has captured the attention of policymakers, business leaders and foreign policy observers across the region. Jessica Ludwig writes that much of this discussion has focused on the economic dimensions of the relationship. “But largely absent from the conversation has been a serious, dedicated look at the normative impact of relations with Beijing on governance—and, in particular, on whether closer relationships with China’s party-state authorities will affect prospects for democracy in a region that has—at least theoretically—adopted a consensus around democratic values,” Ludwig writes. “Without a firm, well-rounded foundation of knowledge about China and the priorities of its political leadership, LAC countries are starting from a significantly disadvantaged position when negotiating the terms of the relationship.”

  • ArgumentsAre Facebook and Google State Actors?

    In 1924, concerned about monopolization in the radio industry, the secretary of commerce said something prescient: “It cannot be thought that any single person or group shall ever have the right to determine what communication may be made to the American people. … We cannot allow any single person or group to place themselves in a position where they can censor the material which shall be broadcasted to the public.” Jed Rubenfeld writes that what Secretary Herbert Hoover warned against has now come to pass:

  • PerspectiveInside the Microsoft Team Tracking the World’s Most Dangerous Hackers

    When the Pentagon recently awarded Microsoft a $10 billion contract to transform and host the U.S. military’s cloud computing systems, the mountain of money came with an implicit challenge: Can Microsoft keep the Pentagon’s systems secure against some of the most well-resourced, persistent, and sophisticated hackers on earth?

  • Election securityForeign Money Flows into U.S. Politics

    By Brian Padden

    Untold amounts of foreign donations are flowing into America’s political system, with little accountability or limits. Although election experts say it’s impossible to accurately estimate the extent of foreign financial influence over U.S. elections, many agree it has increased substantially since a landmark Supreme Court ruling nearly a decade ago opened the flood gates.

  • PerspectiveThe WhatsApp-NSO Group Lawsuit and the Limits of Lawful Hacking

    On 29 October, WhatsApp sued the Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group for installing surveillance malware on the phones of more than a thousand WhatsApp users, including journalists and human rights activists. (The WhatsApp vulnerability that NSO Group exploited was publicly reported in May 2019 and patched shortly thereafter.) WhatsApp sued primarily under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the main federal law criminalizing computer hacking, which also permits private lawsuits. Alan Z. Rozenshtein writes that the complaint is notable for what it doesn’t include: the identity of the “customers” on whose behalf NSO Group installed the malware. But it’s pretty easy to figure out.

  • PerspectiveWhy Did Microsoft Fund an Israeli Firm that Surveils West Bank Palestinians?

    Microsoft has invested in AnyVision, an Israeli startup which has developed a facial recognition technology used by Israel’s military and intelligence services to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms. The surveillance technology lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or a smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds. The Israeli surveillance project is similar to China’s surveillance of its Uighur minority population. China is using artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology for a pervasive, intrusive monitoring of the Uighurs, a Muslim group living in western China.

  • ArgumentsAre We Making Cyber Ransoms Worse?

    Nobody intends to become a hostage. Rather than facing a masked gunman or mafioso hinting at misfortune, these days trouble begins with an email. The link may not work, or there may be a cryptic ransom note demanding an exorbitant payment in cryptocurrency. A frantic phone call from the IT department will follow. It is the call every business leader fears: Your computer system has been breached and data has been stolen or locked up with encryption that cannot be broken. This scenario is not far-fetched. It is not even uncommon.

  • ArgumentsHow a Weaponized Dollar Could Backfire

    United States foreign policy under President Donald Trump continues to run counter to America’s traditional post-war objectives. Should the U.S. carelessly relinquish leadership of the global multilateral order, the dollar might eventually lose its own long-standing primacy.

  • CybersecurityThwarting Cybersecurity Attacks Depends on Strategic, Third-Party Investments

    Companies interested in protecting themselves and their customers from cyber-attacks need to invest in themselves and the vendors that handle their data, according to new research. To mitigate risks, the researchers recommend companies that are typically competitors become allies in strengthening cyber security supply chains.

  • PerspectiveGermany Chooses China Over the West

    Over U.S. and European Union objections, the German government is poised to put in place newly drafted security requirements that do not set clear limits on the Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE supplying technology for German fifth-generation cellular networks. Berlin’s refusal to shut Huawei out of its 5G networks weakens Europe’s prospects of standing up to Beijing.

  • Perspective: California powerPG&E Warns of Ten Years of Power Shut-Offs. California Officials Don’t Like It

    California residents face up to 10 years of widespread, precautionary forced power shut-offs until Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., the bankrupt utility giant, will be able to prevent its power transmission lines from sparking fires, the company’s top official said. Howard Blume writes for the Los Angeles Times that the sobering projection came from company Chief Executive William D. Johnson at an emergency meeting Friday of the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.

  • Perspective: Post-disaster reconstructionBans on Rebuilding in Disaster-Prone Areas Ignore Homeowners Preferences – Raising Costs Works Better

    As California’s wildfire season intensifies, a growing number of residents in the state want to ban people from building in areas at greatest risk. That’s because taxpayers bear the burden of protecting homes in dangerous areas when fire breaks out – and they often help foot the bill when it’s time to rebuild. A recent assessment showed that 1 in 4 Californians live in an area at “high risk” of wildfire. And people tend to want to rebuild in the same spot that was hit by a disaster. Alexander Smith writes that as a behavioral economist who studies the psychology of decision-making, he tries to understand people’s motivations before taking a position in a policy debate. He believes there’s a better way for policymakers to achieve the same goal of getting people to avoid building in disaster-prone areas without forcing people from their homes.

  • Perspective: China syndromeA Healthy Fear of China

    “I have seen the future, and it works,” the left-wing journalist Lincoln Steffens famously declared, after observing Bolshevik Russia in its infancy. What was intended as a utopian boast soon read as a dystopian prediction — but then eventually, as Stalinist ambition gave way to Brezhnevian decay, it curdled into a sour sort of joke. Today, though, there is a palpable fear in the liberal West that Beijing is succeeding where Moscow failed, and that the peculiar blend of Maoist dogmatics, nationalist fervor, one-party meritocracy and surveillance-state capitalism practiced in the People’s Republic of China really is a working alternative to liberal democracy — with cruelty sustained by efficiency, and a resilience that might outstrip our own.

  • PerspectiveU.S. Blacklists 28 Chinese Organizations and Companies over Xinjiang Camps

    Twenty-eight Chinese companies and organizations have been blacklisted by the U.S. for their alleged roles in the running of camps where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Muslims are being detained. The groups have been sanctioned for their alleged roles in facilitating human-rights abuses at the camps in China’s Xinjiang region.