The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
This week in Silicon Valley bias: Google is planning to tell enterprise users of its word processor that words like "motherboard" and "landlord" are insufficiently inclusive for use in polite company. We won't actually be forbidden to use those words. Yet. Though that future has apparently already arrived in Mountain View, where at least one source says that "mainboard" is the only acceptable term for the electronics that used to honor the women who raised us. In another blow for freedom, as it's now defined in the Valley, Twitter will suppress all climate ads that contradict the views a panel of government-appointed scientist-politicos. Apparently suppressing talk that contradicted CDC scientist-politicians worked so well that Twitter is rushing to double down, presumably under the slogan, "You'll pry these red pencils from our cold, dead fingers, Elon!"
In other cyber news, Megan Stifel sums up the last week of cyberwar news: It was a lot like the week before. We're still waiting – nervously—for Russian hackers to lift their eyes from the near target in Ukraine and focus on far targets in the West. The Five Eyes security agencies are doing their best to make sure US critical infrastructure is ready. Well, except for US cloud providers, who were exempted from the definition of really critical infrastructure in the Obama administration and successfully fought off any change in their status for the better part of a decade. Sultan Meghji and I support Congressional efforts to recognize the criticality of securing cloud providers, but it is a heavy lift, especially among Republicans.
Is DJI sabotaging Ukraine's drone fleet, presumably at China's behest? The evidence is hardly airtight, but Ukraine is understandably not taking any chances, as it moves to more expensive drones sourced from the U.S. and elsewhere. Jamil Jaffer delivers a heartfelt plea to American hobbyists to do the same.
A group of former security officials are warning that pending antitrust bills could cause national security problems by handing advantages to Chinese tech companies. POLITICO responds with a hit piece claiming (with evidence ranging from plausible to laughable) that they are influenced by their ties to Silicon Valley. I'm pretty cynical about Silicon Valley's effort to hide behind the national security interests they've mostly dismissed for the last decade, but I end up agreeing with Jamil that the antitrust bills should be amended to allow national security to moderate the trustbusters' zeal.
Sultan and I review some of the week's stories about Artificial Intelligence (AI). We complain that a promising War on the Rocks piece about China's Plans for AI and Cognitive Warfare failed to deliver the goods. We were intrigued by a new way of imperceptibly hacking AI by corrupting its datasets. And we were interested in the story but put off by the dime-store Marxism in an MIT Technology Review story that explains how AI dataset labeling is providing a bare living for dispossessed Venezuelans.
Has Steve Ballmer been sneaking onto Microsoft's Redmond campus and whispering dreams of world domination and ruthless tactics into Satya Nadella's ear? Sultan and I think that may be the most plausible explanation for Microsoft's greedy and boneheaded demand that the federal government pay extra for a crucial security feature.
Finally, in short hits:
- Jamil isn't shocked to find Israeli spyware on phones in the U.K. prime minister's office. Like me, he was disappointed by the relative paucity of new insights in Ronan Farrow's New Yorker piece about "How Democracies Spy on Their Citizens."
- Sultan, meanwhile, recommends the New Yorker's story on North Korea's Hacking Army.
- I reprise the sad story of the eBay security executives who are being prosecuted for a cyberstalking campaign.
- Jamil and I note that most of Cybersecurity Twitter owes Okta an apology now that it turns out that the Lapsus$ breach lasted only 25 minutes and affected only two customers. Sure, it could have been much worse, but the mob was mostly wrong on this one.
- I thank the new Ballmerized Microsoft for making so much good law by losing its lawsuit against HiQ for scraping Linkedin data. The Ninth Circuit ruled, in essence, that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act isn't violated by"unauthorized" scraping of websites that are protected only by harsh words and not technical measures.
- And Jamil explains why Silk Road's Ross Ulbricht, serving life in prison, is still in a position to negotiate with the Justice Department over hundreds of millions in bitcoin.
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4/26 edit: "ads" in place of "talk" after cite check.
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