Too Much 'Cybersecurity' Is the Real Menace to the Internet: Reason Roundup
Plus: Parsing Kavanaugh's past work and how the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands may make weed history
Too many cybercooks. The federal government can't stop creating new task forces to tackle the same problems. Right now, the hot issue is "cybersecurity" and social-media control. "Federal agencies have launched several offices and programs since the 2016 election that are intended to secure cyberspace, but some are warning that this is only creating more confusion among the private sector," reports the Washington Examiner. The result has been "a dozen independent cybersecurity operations with overlapping agendas" and "only sporadic information-sharing between agencies."
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new National Risk Management Center initiative. This comes in addition to the Justice Department's recently launched Cyber-Digital Task Force, the Commerce Department's Cybersecurity Office, the Department of Health and Human Services' Cybersecurity Collaboration and Education Center, the Director of National Intelligence's Cyber Threat Framework, and the FBI's Foreign Influence Task Force, National Crime Information Center, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, among others.
April Doss, chair of the cybersecurity and privacy practice at the law firm Saul Ewing Arnstein and Lehr, told the paper it's overwhelming for anyone trying to actually keep up with and report threats. "I think there is a need for somebody whose job it is to look across the government," said Doss. "We don't seem to have that position existing anywhere in the administration."
But while no one is watching the watchers, folks in Congress want to give just about everyone more power (and mandates) to watch us. Two weeks ago, a leaked draft paper from the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) showed that Warner—vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee—was at least mulling over a massive range of incredibly invasive tech regulations.
The paper described these plans as a response to Russian propaganda campaigns, online harassment, and the overall entrenched and secretive nature of Facebook, Google, and other major technology companies. But as Andy Kessler notes in the The Wall Street Journal, "most of his proposals would end up locking the big guys in place while freezing innovation." Surely, folks could see the danger? Nope:
The shallow-analysis pundit class jubilated. Mr. Warner and Democrats could "crack down on Big Tech," "tame social media," and "knock Silicon Valley into shape." Woo-hoo. The cheerleaders' only complaint is the lack of a 21st proposal: breaking up the tech giants. Still, Mr. Warner wants to show that techland has gotten too big for its breeches and that the center of power radiates from the Hill—not the Valley. But he forgets that there's one market to rule them all. […] If even a handful of these proposals become law, faceless bureaucrats would control the internet instead of energetic entrepreneurs. No one would win under this new internet. And compliance costs would be so massive that no new startups would emerge.
Kessler takes particular issue with Warner's suggestion of (further) meddling with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and his reverence for the European Union's disastrous General Data Protection Regulation.
An American GDPR would turn the U.S. into Europe, making America's technology industry french toast. But that's one of Mr. Warner's goals.
Consider the sop to lawyers. One of the magical characteristics of the online world is that anyone can post anything. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides immunity to the Facebooks, Googles and Twitter s of the world with one simple sentence: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This allows platforms to host almost anything, as well as block content based on community standards, without being sued.
Mr. Warner proposes to change all that and "make platforms liable for state-law torts." Specifically, "a revision to Section 230 could provide the ability for users who have successfully proved that sharing of particular content by another user constitutes a dignitary tort." I can imagine campaign contribution manna and
Mr. Warner proposes to change all that and "make platforms liable for state-law torts." Specifically, "a revision to Section 230 could provide the ability for users who have successfully proved that sharing of particular content by another user constitutes a dignitary tort." I can imagine campaign contribution manna and long lines to file class-action suits in the plaintiff paradise known as the Eastern District of Texas. But no one would ever create an online platform again.
Of course, maybe the internet is about to wash into the sea in 15 years anyway. But until then, we've got a lot of things to sort out, and it would help if we could keep a little perspective.
Pushing back on Adrienne LaFrance's recent condemnation of Twitter, journalism professor Jeff Jarvis writes: "We are often doomed to see the future as the analog of the past. Journalists see screens that contain familiar text and images, and that serve what used to be their ads—and they call that media. Such a mediacentric and egocentric worldview brings too many presumptions and misses too many opportunities."
"To call these platforms publishers," as LaFrance did, "is to presume that their task is merely to produce content," suggests Jarvis.
It is to presume, then, that the internet should be produced, packaged, and polished, and that when someone says something bad anywhere on it then the entire internet is beschmutzed. In Europe, it also means that the internet should be regulated, and in a growing list of authoritarian nations—China, Russia, Iran, Turkey—it means that the internet and the public's speech on it should be controlled.
The larger question, of course, is what the internet is and how it fits into society and society into it. We are just beginning to see what it can be. The essential value of the internet is conversation, not content. The larger question, of course, is what the internet is and how it fits into society and society into it. We are just beginning to see what it can be. The essential value of the internet is conversation, not content. The internet connects more than 3 billion people and enables a grand diversity among them to speak, if not yet to be heard. "Republics," said the late Columbia University professor James Carey, "require conversation, often cacophonous conversation, for they should be noisy places." That sound you hear, which sometimes grates, is the racket of society negotiating its norms and standards, its future. It is the messy sound of democracy.
Jarvis does not think the mass banning of Infowars from the platforms is a bad thing—quite the opposite. "The banning of Infowars from most major platforms is a sign of that process beginning to work," he writes. But he also warns that "it is prudent that we ban what we see rather than everything we might fear…. [W]e need to understand the problem we are trying to address: not technology, but human behavior using technology, the bad acts of some small—yes, small—number of propagandists, trolls, misogynists, bigots, thieves, and jerks."
Kavanaugh doc dump presages September hearings. Over the weekend, the Senate Judiciary Committee "released more than 87,000 records from Brett Kavanaugh's tenure in the George W. Bush White House," notes USA Today.
To date, more than 103,000 pages of materials from the Supreme Court nominee's past work have been made public. They are part of a record million-plus pages of legal opinions and emails from his career as a federal judge, White House lawyer and assistant to the prosecutor who investigated President Bill Clinton.
The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings are now scheduled to start September 4.
Island territory could become first legislative OK for legal weed. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory of about 54,000 people, is preparing to legalize recreational marijuana. "In May, CNMI's Senate voted in favor…of drafted legislation that would end the prohibition of cannabis and allow adults over age of 21 to grow, possess, and use marijuana," as well as for stores to sell it, reports the Motley Fool.
What makes this legalization even more unique is that it's being done entirely through the legislative process. In other words, residents of the CNMI aren't voting on whether they want recreational weed to be legal—it's being done entirely by lawmakers in the House and Senate. If you recall, Vermont became the first U.S. state to OK the use of recreational pot in January through the legislative process. The previous eight states to green light adult-use weed had their measures approved by voters via state ballot. However, Vermont doesn't allow the retail sale of marijuana. That means the CNMI's legislative approval of recreational marijuana would represent the first of any U.S. state or territory to allow the retail sale of adult-use cannabis.
- Counter protesters far, far outnumbered white nationalists of the "alt right" at a much-hyped Sunday protest in front of the White House.
- Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Michael Soliman said "his crew has seen trashed scooters in a 10-foot-high pile."
- How Rand Paul wooed Trump.
- MIT professor Sherry Turkle on robots and why "there will never be an age of artificial intimacy."
- Russia is dealing with an epidemic of public park copulation that might be some sort of secret viral marketing campaign.