The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

A digital curtain descends across Europe

Episode 397 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


Much of this episode is devoted to the new digital curtain falling across Europe. With usual host Stewart Baker away from the microphone, Gus Horwitz and Mark-MacCarthy review the tech boycott that has seen companies like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Adobe pull their service from Russia. Nick Weaver describes how Russia has cracked down on independent Russian media outlets and blocked access to the websites of foreign media including the BBC and Facebook.  Gus reports on an apparent Russian decision to require all servers and domains to transfer Russian zone, thereby disconnecting itself from the global internet.

Mark describes decisions by private companies in the U.S. to exclude Russian media from their systems, including how DirecTV's decision to drop RT America led the Russian 24-hour news channel to shutter its operations. In contrast, the EU officially shut down all RT and Sputnik operations, including their apps and websites. Nick wonders if the enforcement mechanism is up to the task of taking down the websites. Gus, Dave and Mark discuss the mythmaking in social media about the Ukrainian war such as the Ghost of Kyiv, and wonder if fiction might do some good to keep up the morale of the besieged country.

Dave Aitel reminds us that despite the apparent lack of cyberattacks in the war, more might be going on under the surface. He also he gives us details about the internal attack that affected the Conti Ransomware gang when they voiced support for Russia. Nick opines that cryptocurrencies do not have the volume to serve as an effective way around the financial sanctions against Russia. Sultan Meghji agrees that the financial sanctions will accelerate the move away from the dollar as the world's reserve currency and is skeptical that a principles-based constraint will do much good to halt that trend.

A few things happened other than the war in Ukraine, including President Biden's first state of the union address. Gus notices that much of the speech was devoted to tech. He notes that the presence in the audience of Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, highlighted Biden's embrace of stronger online children's privacy laws and that the presence of Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger gave the President the opportunity to pitch his plan to support domestic chip production.

Sultan and Dave discuss the cybersecurity bill that passed out of the Senate unanimously. It would require companies in critical sectors to report cyberattacks and ransomware to the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). They also analyze the concerns that companies have about providing information to the FBI. Dave thinks the bills that were discussed in this week's House Commerce hearing to hold Big Tech accountable, respond to widespread public concerns about tech's surveillance business model, but still he thinks they are unlikely to  become law.

Gus says that Amazon's certification that it has responded to the Federal Trade Commission's inquiries about its proposed $6.5 billion MGM merger triggers a statutory deadline for the agency to act. It is not the company's fault, he says, that the agency has a 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans that will likely prevent them opposing the merger in time. Mark takes the opportunity to note that the Senate Commerce committee sent the nominations of Alvaro Bedoya for the Federal Trade Commission and Gigi Sohn for the Federal Communications Commission to the Senate floor, but that it will likely be several months before the full Senate would act on the nominations.

Finally, Nick argues that certain measures in the European Commission's proposed digital identity framework, aiming to improve authentication on the web, would in practice have the opposite effect—potentially dramatically weakening web security.

Finally, two or three announcements about the podcast.  We have decided to celebrate episode 400 by inviting our listeners to watch in real time.  We'll be doing the podcast at noon Eastern on March 28, with the exact mechanism for listener viewing and participation still to be determined.  More on that to come, but this is the time to mark your calendars.

We're still thinking about doing an episode in person as well, but lingering covid restrictions mean that we've postponed that event for a month or two.

And, finally, with the upcoming departure of our sound and substance guru, Jacob Nelson, we're in the market for a replacement.  The job is part-time, and it will pay, though maybe not a lot. If you'd like a chance to meet the cast of the episode, think deep thoughts about cyberlaw, and master podcasting. this could be the job for you.  Send your CV to We'll be making our decision by early summer.

Download the 397th Episode (mp3)

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