Plumbing the depths of artificial stupidity

Episode 287 of the Cyberlaw Podcast

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The Foreign Agent Registration Act is having a moment – in fact its best year since 1939, as the Justice Department charges three people with spying on Twitter users for Saudi Arabia. Since they were clearly acting like spies but not stealing government secrets or company intellectual property, FARA seems to be the only law that they could be charged with violating. Nate Jones and I debate whether the Justice Department can make the charges stick.

Nick Weaver goes off on NSO Group for its failure to supervise the way its customers intrude on cell phone contents. I'm less sure that NSO deserves its bad rap, and I wonder whether WhatsApp should have compromised what looks like 1100 legitimate law enforcement investigations because it questions 100 other investigatons using NSO malware.

Speaking of Facebook's judgment, Paul Rosenzweig and I turn out to be surprisingly sympathetic to the company's stand on political ads and whether "Mama Facebook" should decide their truthfulness. Meanwhile, Twitter, darling of the press, has gotten away with a no-political-ads stance that is at least as problematical.

Nate, Paul, and I go pretty far down the rabbit hole arguing whether search warrants should give police access to DNA databases.

The National Security Commission on Artificial intelligence has published its interim report, and Nick, Nate, and I can't really quarrel with its contents, except to complain that it doesn't break a lot of new ground.

And maybe all this AI is still a little overrated. Remember that AI fake news text generator that OpenAI claimed was "too dangerous to release"? Well it's been released, and it turns out to be bone stupid. We test it live, and the tool has a long way to go before it can scratch its way up to "underwhelming."

Nick tells us why nobody who ever worked with the US government should even change planes in Russia these days.

In the lightning round, Paul and I ask when blowing off Congress became a thing anybody could do. Nick dumps on both sides in the Great DOH debate. I note that Ted Cruz has called out USTR for sticking Section 230 into trade deals.

We close with This Week in Pew! Pew! Pew! It really is the 21st century now that we're using lasers to attack talking computers. Nick explains how to order fifty copies of Skating on Stilts using your neighbor's Amazon account and a laser.

Download the 287th Episode (mp3).

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  1. Is there a transcript?

  2. Albert Einstein:
    The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
    Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.
    artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity

    All machine learning was first programed by man.

  3. Mueller’s team greatly upping and expanding FARA will, by far, be his longest lasting legacy. This is likely to be a negative in the long run.

    1. FARA was one of the most (deliberately) overlooked laws for years. While trying to expand it too far – as seems to be happening in this case – is bad, it’d be wonderful if all the unregistered lobbyists for foreign governments on K Street suddenly found themselves facing criminal charges.

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