The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
You heard it on the Cyberlaw Podcast first, as we did a mashup of the week's top stories: Nate Jones commenting on Elon Musk's expected troubles running Twitter at a profit and Jordan Schneider noting the U.S. government's creeping, halting moves to constrain TikTok's sway in the U.S. market. Since Twitter has never made a lot of money, even before it was carrying loads of new debt, and since pushing TikTok out of the U.S. market is going to be an option on the table for years, why doesn't Elon Musk position Twitter to take its place? (Breaking news: Apparently the podcast has a direct line to Elon Musk's mind; he is reported to be entertaining the idea of reviving Vine to compete with TikTok.)
It's another big week for China news, as Nate and Jordan cover the administration's difficulties in finding a way to thwart China's rise in quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Jordan has a good post about the tech decoupling bombshell. But the most intriguing discussion concerns China's remarkably limited options for striking back at the Biden Administration for its harsh sanctions.
Meanwhile, under the heading, When It Rains, It Pours, Elon Musk's Tesla faces a criminal investigation over its self-driving claims. Nate and I are skeptical that the probe will lead to charges, as Tesla's message about Full Self-Driving has been a mix of manic hype and depressive lawyerly caution.
Jamil Jaffer introduces us to the Guacamaya "hacktivist" group whose data dumps have embarrassed governments all over Latin America – most recently with reports of Mexican military arms sales to narco-terrorists. On the hard question – hacktivists or government agents? – Jamil and I lean ever so slightly toward hacktivists.
Nate covers the remarkable indictment of two Chinese spies for recruiting a U.S. law enforcement officer in an effort to get inside information about the prosecution of a Chinese company believed to be Huawei. We pull plenty of great color from the indictment, and Nate notes the awkward spot that the defense team now finds itself in, since the point of the espionage seems to have been, er, trial preparation.
To balance the scales a bit, Nate also covers suggestions that Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt, who headed an AI advisory committee, had a conflict of interest because he also invested in AI startups. There's no suggestion of illegality, though, and it is not clear how the government will get cutting edge advice on AI if it does not get it from investors and industry experts like Schmidt.
Jamil and I have mildly divergent takes on Transportation Security Administration's new railroad cybersecurity directive. He worries that it will produce more box-checking than security. My concern is that it mostly reinforces current practice rather than raising the bar.
And in quick updates:
- The Federal Trade Commission has made good on its promise to impose consent decree obligations on CEOs as well as companies. The first victim is the CEO of Drizly.
- France has fined Clearview AI the maximum possible fine for not defending a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) case – unsurprisingly, because Clearview AI does no business in France.
- I offer this public service announcement: Given the risk that your Prime Ministers' phones could be compromised, it's important to change them every 45 days.
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