• Activists cry foul as Russian court orders Telegram app blocked

    A Moscow court has issued an order to block access to Telegram, ruling in favor of the state and against the defiant self-exiled Russian entrepreneur who created the popular messaging app. The 13 April ruling was expected, but is certain to deepen concerns that the government is seeking to close avenues for dissent as President Vladimir Putin heads into a new six-year term. Amnesty International warned that blocking Telegram would be “the latest in a series of attacks on online freedom of expression” in Russia.

  • Carbon taxes could make significant dent in climate change, study finds

    Putting a price on carbon, in the form of a fee or tax on the use of fossil fuels, coupled with returning the generated revenue to the public in one form or another, can be an effective way to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. That’s one of the conclusions of an extensive analysis of several versions of such proposals, carried out by researchers at MIT and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

  • New approaches are needed to protect consumer data

    Facebook’s current privacy crisis and questions about how Google gathers, uses and stores our personal information demonstrate an urgent need to review and replace inadequate and outdated ways to regulate data and information, according to a business law expert.

  • Paper trails and random audits could secure all elections – don’t save them just for recounts in close races

    As states begin to receive millions of federal dollars to secure the 2018 primary and general elections, officials around the country will have to decide how to spend it to best protect the integrity of the democratic process. If voters don’t trust the results, it doesn’t matter whether an election was actually fair or not. Right now, the most visible election integrity effort in the U.S. involves conducting recounts in especially close races. A similar approach could be applied much more broadly.

  • Georgia passes anti-cyber whistleblower bill

    Despite the vigorous objections of the cybersecurity community, the Georgia legislature has passed a bill which would open independent researchers who identify vulnerabilities in computer systems to prosecution and up to a year in jail. Critics of the bill say that Georgia has positioned itself as a hub for cybersecurity research, but the bill would make cybersecurity firms think twice about relocating to Georgia.

  • Former Justice Stevens’s call for repealing the2nd Amendment: Compelling, hazardous

    On 27 March, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed article calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. Gregory Magarian, a former clerk for Justice Stevens and now a law professor specializing in constitutional law, says that Justice Stevens makes a compelling historical and legal case for amending the Constitution to repeal the Second Amendment, but that the path he advocates would present distinctive challenges and hazards.

  • A court case could set precedent for climate change litigation

    A closely watched federal trial pitting two cities against major oil companies has taken surprising and unorthodox turns. Stanford researchers examine the case, which could reshape the landscape of legal claims for climate change-related damages.

  • Russians are hacking our public-commenting system, too

    Russia has found yet another way surreptitiously to influence U.S. public policy: Stealing the identities of real Americans and then using these identities to file fake comments during the comment submission period preceding the formulation of public policies. For example, in the course of its deliberations on the future of Internet openness, the FCC logged about half a million comments sent from Russian email addresses – but, even more unnerving, it received nearly eight million comments from email domains associated with FakeMailGenerator.com with almost identical wording. Researchers, journalists, and public servants have found a wide range of fake comments and stolen identities in the public proceedings of the Labor Department, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Women’s March organizer again attends Farrakhan speech

    The ADL has called him “the leading anti-Semite in America,” and the SPLC has designated his Nation of Islam a hate group. True to form, Rev. Louis Farrakhan, in his annual Saviors’ Day address in Chicago on 25 February, claimed that “the powerful Jews are my enemy”; that “the Jews have control over agencies of those agencies of government”; and thatJews are “the mother and father of apartheid.” These anti-Semitic rants did not prevent Tamika D. Mallory, one of four presidents of the Women’s March, to participated in the 25 February rally. Mallory has on multiple occasions posted on her social media platforms about attending events with Farrakhan, and two other co-founders of the Women’s March, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, have also praised and appeared at events with Farrakhan.

  • AI profiling: the social and moral hazards of “predictive” policing

    While the use of AI predictions in police and law enforcement is still in its early stages, it is vital to scrutinize any warning signs that may come from its use. One standout example is a 2016 ProPublica investigation which found that COMPAS software was biased against black offenders. Society needs to maintain a critical perspective on the use of AI on moral and ethical grounds. Not least because the details of the algorithms, data sources and the inherent assumptions on which they make calculations are often closely guarded secrets. Those secrets are in the hands of the specialist IT companies that develop them who want to maintain confidentiality for commercial reasons. The social, political and criminal justice inequalities likely to arise should make us question the potential of predictive policing.

  • Another mass shooting: An update on U.S. gun laws

    “The problem of mass shootings has been effectively addressed in other countries, with Australia being the most notable success story,” says Stanford Law Professor John Donohue III. “After a devastating mass shooting in 1996, Australia banned all semi-automatic rifles (a move far more stringent than the U.S. federal assault weapons ban), with no grandfathering of existing weapons––it was a real ban. The result is that Australia, which had been averaging close to one mass shooting a year over the prior fifteen years (a rate that was higher than the U.S. rate of mass murder at the time when adjusted for population), has now gone almost twenty-two years without a mass shooting––an astonishing achievement of public policy.” Donohue adds that Australia took many additional gun control steps, such as banning “personal protection” as a reason for obtaining a gun permit. “Importantly, their rates of homicide, suicide, and robbery have all trended down contrary to the assertions and predictions of the NRA,” Donohue says.

  • Federal judge rules White House can continue building border wall

    U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who the president once asserted could not be fair to Trump because of Curiel’s Mexican heritage, has ruled in favor of the White House in a lawsuit over construction of a border wall.

  • Supreme Court declines to enter DACA fray

    The Supreme Court announced today (Monday) that it will not, at least for now, enter the legal fight over the Trump administration’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The court’s decision to allow the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to resolve the legal challenges to the administration’s plan  means the administration cannot proceed with its plan to end the DACA program until the end of a few more months of appeals, that is, past the 5 March deadline the administration had set to for the 800,000 “Dreamers” who arrived in the country illegally as children.

  • Deep Fakes: A looming crisis for national security, democracy and privacy?

    Events in the last few years, such as Russia’s broad disinformation campaign to undermine Western democracies, including the American democratic system, have offered a compelling demonstration of truth decay: how false claims — even preposterous ones — can be disseminated with unprecedented effectiveness today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquitous presence and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization. Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron write in Lawfare that the resulting harms are significant for individuals, businesses, and democracy – but that the problem may soon take a significant turn for the worse thanks to deep fakes. They urge us to get used to hearing that phrase. “It refers to digital manipulation of sound, images, or video to impersonate someone or make it appear that a person did something—and to do so in a manner that is increasingly realistic, to the point that the unaided observer cannot detect the fake. Think of it as a destructive variation of the Turing test: imitation designed to mislead and deceive rather than to emulate and iterate.”

  • The NRA’s journey from marksmanship to political brinkmanship

    The mass shooting on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, ripped at the hearts of Americans in a way perhaps not seen or felt since the Sandy Hook Elementary School bloodshed in Newtown, Connecticut six years earlier. But so far, the largest and oldest U.S. gun group is doubling down on its sweeping opposition to restrictions on gun ownership. After spending decades researching and writing about how and why the NRA came to hold such sway over national gun policies, I believe it might not be as invincible at this point in its history as the interest group’s reputation suggests.