Will the Russians add "crossing US red lines" to the 2021 Olympics?

Episode 370 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


We begin the episode with the Biden administration's options for responding to continued Russian ransomware outrages. Dmitri Alperovitch reprises his advice in the Washington Post that Putin will only respond to strength and U.S. pressure.  I agree but question whether the U.S. has the tools to enforce another set of red lines, given Putin's enthusiasm and talent for crossing them. If jumping U.S. red lines were an Olympic sport, Russia would have retired the gold by now. Dmitri further reminds us that Russian cooperation against cybercrime remains a mirage. He also urges that we keep the focus on ransomware and not the more recent attempt to hack the Republican National Committee.

The Biden White House has been busy this week, or at least Tim Wu has. When Wu took a White House job as "Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy," some might have wondered why he did it. Now, Gus Hurwitz tells us, it looks as though Wu was given carte blanche to turn his recent think tank paper into an Executive Order.  It's a kitchen sink full of proposals, Mark MacCarthy notes, most of them more focused on regulation than competition. That observation leads to a historical diversion into the way a Brandeisian competition policy aimed at breaking industry into smaller competitors ended by creating big regulatory agencies and bigger companies to match.

We had to cover Donald Trump's class actions against Twitter, Facebook, and Google, but if the time we devoted to writing about the lawsuits was proportionate to their prospects for success, we'd have already stopped.

Mark gives more time to a House Republican leadership plan to break up Big Tech and stop censorship. But the plan (or, to be fair, the sketch) is hardly a dramatic rebuke to Silicon Valley – and despite that fact it isn't likely to get far. Divisions in both parties' caucuses now seem likely to doom any legislative move against Big Tech in this Congress.

The most interesting tech and policy story of the week is the Didi IPO in the U.S., and the harsh reaction to it in Beijing. Dmitri tells us that the government has banned new distributions of Didi's ride-sharing app and opened a variety of punitive regulatory investigations into the company. This has dropped Didi's stock price, punishing the U.S. investors who likely pressed Didi to launch the IPO despite negative signals from Beijing.

Meanwhile, more trouble looms for the ride-sharing giant, as Senate conservatives object to Didi benefiting from U.S. investment and China makes clear that Didi will not be allowed to provide the data needed to comply  with U.S. stock exchange rules.

Mark and Gus explain why 37 U.S. states are taking Google to court over its Play Store rules—and why, paradoxically, Google's light hand in the Play store could expose it more to antitrust liability than Apple's famously iron-fisted rule.

Dmitri notes the hand-wringing over the rise of autonomous drone weapons but dismisses the notion that there's something uniquely new or bad about the weapons (we've had autonomous, or at least automatic, submarine weapons, he reminds us, since the invention of naval mines in the fourteenth century).

In quick hits;

  • Gus and Dmitri offer dueling perspectives on the Pentagon's proposal to cancel and subdivide the big DOD cloud contract.
  • Gus tells us about the other Fortnite lawsuit against Apple over its app store; this one is in Australia and was recently revived.
  • As I suspected, Tucker Carlson has pretty much drained the drama from the tale of having his communications intercepted by NSA. Turns out he's been seeking an interview with Putin. And no one should be surprised that the NSA might want to listen to Putin.
  • The Indian government is telling its courts that Twitter has lost its 230-style liability protection in that country. As a result, it looks as though Twitter is rushing to comply with Indian law requirements that it has blown off so far. Still, the best part of the story is Twitter's appointment of a "grievance officer." Really, what could be more Silicon Valley Woke? I predict it's only a matter of months before the Valley fills with Chief Grievance Officers and the Biden administration appoints one for the United States.
  • And, finally, I give the EU Parliament credit for doing the right thing in passing legislation that lets companies look for child abuse on their platforms. Readers may remember that the problem was an EU privacy rule that threatened to prevent social media from monitoring their platforms for abuse, not just in Europe but around the world. To make sure we knew that it is still the same feckless EU Parliament as before, the law was grudgingly adopted only after giving child abusers a six-month holiday from scrutiny and was scheduled to expire in three years, by which time the Parliament seems to think it can stop worrying about the sexual abuse of children and get back to imposing privacy requirements on the United States that none of its Member States observe.

And More!

Download the 370th Episode (mp3)

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  1. “As I suspected, Tucker Carlson has pretty much drained the drama from the tale of having his communications intercepted by NSA. Turns out he’s been seeking an interview with Putin. And no one should be surprised that the NSA might want to listen to Putin.”

    And, how did we find that out?

    Oh, right: The NSA leaked Carlson’s emails to a reporter. Which kind of pumps the drama back in, if you ask me.

    1. And the leaks don’t even indicated he emailed Putin – the person he supposedly contacted was resident in the US, and it is “unclear if the person was a US citizen”.

    2. Anything Carlson says is worthless; he’s a sleazy liar to an ugly & grotesque degree. Remember when he had a shocking and groundbreaking story to reporter on Hunter’s laptop, but couldn’t because the information was stolen by nefarious forces? Turns out he always had a copy and the data was just a couple of days late in the mail. The shocking development somehow never materialized. Currently Tucker is pushing a hard anti-vax line to the halfwits who form his listening audience. Is there any figure in modern American politics as contemptable as Carlson? (Besides Donald Trump, that is)

      That said, he could have a legitimate beef here. Not because the NSA was spying on him – that’s just the normal grade TC bullshit you see every day – but if they leaked details of a call from him to someone under surveillance.

      But did they? I’ve tried a few Google stabs and found zero evidence any information on Tucker’s calls is in circulation. No reporting. No reporting on reporting aside from TC’s own allegation. Given his word is meaningless, where does that leave this?

      1. It’s almost as if you are deliberately being obtuse. Ed Snowden’s sacrifice was in vain apparently.

        Nevertheless, the power arrayed against us is going to impact you one day. Maybe then you will wake up.

      2. The shocking developments with Hunter Biden’s laptop have occurred over and over again. You won’t find those stories on CNN and MSNBC (obviously your only sources of information). The Daily Mail, not being part of the Democratic Party Propaganda Corps, has been covering this extensively.

        And in no way is Carlson an anti-vaxxer. He just asks the simple question: where is the medical evidence that those who have had COVID-19 and recovered from it need to get vaccinated? Feel free to respond with that.

      3. The NSA collects all communications and spies on all Americans.

        1. The NSA sucks, but no need to go tin foil just to show your dislike of them.

  2. I am looking for a high school kid to write an app. It detects the location of any hacker. It then uses facial recognition to verify identity. It dispatches a rocket grenade launching drone. It launches one into his apartment, and the more of his friends and family it kills, the better. To deter. Target cost is $19.95, as seen on TV. Google already knows who all of them are. Once it is seized, all its recordings can be scanned, and the drones can be dispatched, thousands at a time.

    1. If a lawyer sues for battery by drone, dispatch the drone to the lawyer’s home, too. Try to kill as many people there as possible. To deter.

  3. Re: the EU and social media child abuse …

    A psychologically and emotionally sound, as well as a physically healthy, future needs to be every child’s right, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter.

    Trauma from unchecked toxic abuse typically results in a helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it can act as a starting point into a life in which the brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. It has been described as a discomforting anticipation of ‘the other shoe dropping’ and simultaneously being scared of how badly you will deal with the upsetting event, which usually never transpires. It can make every day an emotional/psychological ordeal, unless the mental turmoil is treated with some form of medicating, either prescribed or illicit. The pain — which unlike an open physical disability or condition, such as paralysis, a missing limb or eye — is very formidable yet invisibly confined to inside one’s head, solitarily suffered.

    “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.” (Childhood Disrupted, pg.228).

  4. So the NSA can listen in if you engage any foreigner they deem “necessary” that alone should be somewhat of a concern and then can “unmask” you and leak the fact you were talking to the foreigner as well in a way to paint the “narrative” and its all ok? Bill of Rights? 4th Amendment? Who cares? This kind of crap was something we were told was necessary for the cold war (it wasn’t) and when the cold war ended why in god’s name was the CIA or NSA allowed to continue? Military intell orgs like Naval Intell are more competent than the CIA anyway and not a threat to our liberty..seriously when Reason takes the side of the NSA which has become politicized wing of the DNC over a journalist….something is very wrong. Senator Moynhan wanted to shut down the CIA when the cold war ended and he had a point. The new “threat” are Americans who support liberty I guess….

    1. It’s not just that they can listen to any phone conversation of a person who has engaged a foreign person of interest, (For a very vague value of “engaged”.).

      They can listen into to any phone conversation by somebody who has engaged somebody who has engaged somebody who has engaged somebody of interest. It’s been estimated that a few thousand ‘people of interest’ would give them an excuse to conduct surveillance against anybody in the US at all, by playing these games.

      So they never have to admit to targeting a US citizen they’re targeting. They just have to pick somebody ‘three hops’ away, and say they collected wiretaps ‘incidentally’ to their nominal target.

      1. Oh, and they’ve analyzed the US ‘social network’ in detail, so given a name of somebody they want to wiretap, they can basically automatically find somebody within three hops who they have a defensible excuse for surveillance against. So it isn’t even any work to construct an excuse, it’s just look it up in the table.

      2. The NSA can also spy on their ex-wives and ex-girlfriends to see what they’re up to.

  5. Just read Mr. Baker’s CV…ok I get it he is one of the neocon Bushes whose interests like in the DHS (a federal agency we didn’t need and just added to more govt, more centralization, less liberty and the loss of VA as a red state…sorry but govt employees always vote democratic). The military is tasked with protecting America from threats..DHS wasn’t needed and just created more “DHS experts” to pull down large revenue streams looking for monsters to slay..which now are conservatives, libertarians and I guess anyone who thinks Russia isn’t going to invade the US (honestly Russia is a bit of a joke with a GDP just north of Spain), China a serious threat we trade with and allow them to industrialize so DC can dump our printed dollars to avoid high inflation. Why is this guy writing for Reason and not Salon or Slate or the Atlantic? Come on even Corn Pop knows this..

  6. Still, the best part of the story is Twitter’s appointment of a “grievance officer.” Really, what could be more Silicon Valley Woke? I predict it’s only a matter of months before the Valley fills with Chief Grievance Officers and the Biden administration appoints one for the United States.

    The Festivus Officer handles the Airing of Grievances.

  7. Well, the June inflation numbers are out: 5.4%

    Tighten your seatbelts, we’re in for a wild ride, with no telling if it stops short of wheel barrows of currency to buy a loaf of bread. The inflation rate has more than tripled in the space of a few months.

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