Rethinking the Homeland Security Enterprise | Predicting Earthquakes | Cybersecurity Review Board, and more

Seditious Conspiracy: What to Make of the Latest Oath Keepers Indictment  (Scott R. Anderson, Quinta Jurecic, Rohini Kurup, Natalie K. Orpett, Alan Z. Rozenshtein, Lawfare)
The indictment sets out the most serious criminal charge yet used against any of the Capitol rioters but it also shows the limits of the criminal law in responding to Jan. 6.

Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Four Big Tech Firms  (Luke Broadwater and Mike Isaac, New York Times)
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to four major social media companies — Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter — criticizing them for allowing extremism to spread on their platforms and saying they have failed to cooperate adequately with the inquiry. In letters accompanying the subpoenas, the panel named Facebook, a unit of Meta, and YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet’s Google subsidiary, as among the worst offenders that contributed to the spread of misinformation and violent extremism. The committee said it had been investigating how the companies “contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence.” “It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions,” said the panel’s chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi.

ISIS Bot Army Adapts to Survive Online Cyberslaughter – Report  (Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post)
ISIS’s digital presence is under constant attack by the West, Iranian proxies and others, but its army of bots is learning to adapt even to aggressive attempts to shut it down, a new report by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at Reichman University said. Authored by ICT researcher Danielle Haberfeld and Research Director Dr. Eitan Azani, the report details both the waves of new cyber attacks mounted by the West and Iranian proxies on their rare common enemy, ISIS, as well as how the terror group is morphing to stay relevant in the cybersphere. After ISIS lost its hold on territory in 2017-2018, it migrated much of its influence to the online world. However, eventually the West, Iranian proxies and the “traditional” social media giants caught up with ISIS on traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter and started to systematically and massively close their accounts. At first, ISIS was too fast for those hunting it digitally, and closing one account merely led to a new account. However, the report said that eventually Facebook, Twitter and some others improved their detection game and timing so that ISIS had to escape to newer and even less regulated platforms like Telegram, Element and “Rocketchat” and on to a variety of smaller, unofficial and decentralized chat rooms, instead of larger centralized accounts.

Fishmongers’ Hall: University of Cambridge Project Halted After Attack  (BBC)
…But a senior adviser for the Counter Extremism Project, Prof Ian Acheson, said the “total failure” of Cambridge University and its subsidiary to put in place any system of risk assessment and to discharge its duty of care to its volunteers was “the plainest case of negligence”. Prof Acheson, a former prison officer, also criticised the lack of positive rehabilitation outcomes of the programme, which was awarded £250,000 of public funds as well as funding from Cambridge University. “This was a totally reckless programme that didn’t achieve anything, as far as I can see, for the people who were on the programme,” he said. “Part of the problem here was a mixture of incompetence, naivety and hubris.” He described the Learning Together programme as a “vanity project that went disastrously wrong, resulting in the completely preventable deaths of two students”.

The Urgent Need for a Cybersecurity Review Board  (Adam Shostack, Tarah Wheeler, and Victoria Ontiveros, Brookings)
Ending the perpetual cycle of major security breaches requires first understanding the problem of widespread cyber vulnerabilities, and the federal government is beginning to take steps to do so—but not fast enough. In May, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that tasked the secretary of homeland security to stand up a Cyber Safety Review Board that would investigate major incidents affecting government computing systems and to disseminate the lessons learned from such incidents. More than six months later, the board exists only on paper, and cyber Groundhog Day marches forward, doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Amid widespread computer vulnerabilities, getting this board up and running should be a serious priority, one that has the potential to seriously improve the disastrous state of cybersecurity.

Predicting Earthquakes Is Not Possible. Yet  (Economist)
But an intriguing new approach shows promise.

History Explains Why Global Content Moderation Cannot Work  (Heidi Tworek, Brookings)
Social media platforms face an all but impossible challenge: generating standards for acceptable speech that transcend borders and apply universally. From nudity and sexual content to hate speech and violent material, digital platforms have tried to write rules and build content-moderation regimes that apply around the world. That these regimes have struggled to meet their goals, however, should come as no surprise: The global speech standards authored by online platforms are not the first time that tech innovators have tried to write global rules for speech. Unfortunately, the history of attempts to write such rules does not bode well for contemporary efforts to build global content-moderation regimes. From telegraphic codes to the censorship of prurient material, the promise of globally consistent standards have long been plagued by important—and to some extent inevitable—linguistic and contextual differences.

As Violent Crime Leaps, Liberal Cities Rethink Cutting Police Budgets  (Economist)
The tricky politics of criminal-justice reform at a time of rising fears.