Only Elites Escape the Algorithm

Episode 376 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


In this episode, we welcome Nick Weaver back for a special appearance thanks to the time-shifting powers of podcast software. He does a sack dance over cryptocurrency, flagging both China's ban on cryptocurrency transactions and the U.S. Treasury's sanctioning of the SUEX crypto exchange.

Maury Shenk then explains the plans that the Biden administration and the EU have for Big Tech and the rest of us. Hint: it involves more content moderation in support of, er, democracy.

Adam Candeub gives us a tour of the Wall Street Journal's deeply reported series on Facebook's difficulties managing the social consequences of, well, the internet, a responsibility that the press is determined to impose on the company. Among the quasi-scandals turned up by the Journal is the "secret elite" of users protected from Facebook's clunky and clueless content moderation algorithms. But really, in today's world, true power is all about escaping the algorithms otherwise imposed on us by various authorities. Every one of us aspires to join that elite. And perhaps we all can, if Ohio's Attorney General and its latest Senate candidate get their way, with a lawsuit to turn Google into a common carrier. (If that happens, we'll credit Adam, who wrote an amicus brief in support.)

And what's an elite without its hands on the levers of industry? China's embrace of national champions on the world stage has forced a rethinking in the West of industrial policy. Hence, the auto industry's commercial problem (they want cheap, plentiful, and antiquated chips for their cars) is suddenly a matter for White House meetings, and hints that the government might have its own supply allocation plans and powers.

In fact, regulating the private sector is so in vogue, as long as it's a tech-ish part of the private sector, that California barely made news when it imposed a new and almost undefinable regulatory obligation on warehouse companies like Amazon.  The law, requiring notice and imposing vague limits on production quotas, is at bottom, I argue, an attempt to put workers back on top of the algorithm – by demanding that it explain itself.

Maury next takes us to the heart of algorithmic power and our unease with it, explaining that Google now admits that it has no idea how to make AI less toxic.

In quick hits:

  • The Washington whispers about Zoom's ties to China have grown louder, as the US government announces a national security review of Zoom's proposed acquisition of Five9 for $15 billion.
  • Contrary to my understanding, at least one former intel operative who went to work for the United Arab Emirates in Project Raven landed very much on his feet – as CTO at ExpressVPN, though company employees are now expressing unhappiness about his history.
  • And podcast regular Dmitri Alperovitch has an op-ed in the New York Times that (no surprise!) urges much tougher tactics in the fight against ransomware gangs.

Download the 376th Episode (mp3)

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Pocket Casts, or our RSS feed. As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to Remember: If your suggested guest appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

NEXT: Footnotes and Exile

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The greatest compliance of Facebook is with China and Russia governments. That makes Facebook treasonous. The purpose is to access those markets for the enrichment of Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg has to be arrested when we have a different President in 2025.

  2. “. . . if Ohio’s Attorney General and its latest Senate candidate get their way, with a lawsuit to turn Google into a common carrier.”

    Hmmm….the AG might want to talk to the governor.

    Google to invest $1 billion, buy more land as part of Columbus region data center expansion

    Google will invest an additional $1 billion into its data center operations in New Albany while buying land in Columbus and Lancaster for more data centers.

    “We are delighted that Google Cloud has committed to expanding its presence in Ohio, further solidifying the state’s position as one of the country’s leading destinations for cloud technology investment,” Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday in a statement. “Google Cloud is choosing to expand here yet again, continuing a growth trend of cloud computing investments that we are seeing throughout Ohio.”

    Google’s data centers run its services such as search, Gmail and YouTube for users around the world.

    The announcement is the latest on what has been a string of data center projects for central Ohio.

    Amazon has data centers in New Albany, Dublin and Hilliard. Facebook has data center operations in New Albany along with tech company Cologix.

    The region has become a hub for cloud computing, offering fiber networks that reach major cities on the East and West coasts, the companies have said. Also, the region has ideal weather for data centers in that there is little risk of flooding, earthquakes or tornadoes compared with other regions. It also has ample supplies of electricity and labor.

    It’ll be fun watching Ohio turn permanently blue within 10 years – and watching Bob from Ohio’s panties get all wadded up.

    1. So now it’s OK when corporations buy votes? It’s be nice if you progs would be consistent.

  3. In fact, regulating the private sector is so in vogue, as long as it’s a tech-ish part of the private sector,

    Stewart, I give you the energy sector, the healthcare sector, the health insurance sector, the automotive sector, pharmaceuticals, the education sector, etc.
    “They” want to regulate the entire private sector, and are nearly there.

    1. The entire private sector is regulated. Has been since Lochner was overturned.

      Unless you can find a sector immune from labor issues and market failure.

Please to post comments