Our News Roundup is hip deep in China stories. The inconclusive EU – China summit gives Matthew Heiman and me a chance to explain why France understands – and hates – China’s geopolitical trade strategy more than most.
Maury Shenk notes that the Pentagon’s reported plan to put a bunch of Chinese suppliers on a blacklist is a bit of a tribute to China’s own list of sectors not open to Western companies. In other China news, Matthew discloses that there’s reason to believe that China has finally begun to use all the US personnel data it stole from OPM. I’m so worried it may yet turn my hair pink, at least for SF-86 purposes.
And in a sign that it really is better to be lucky than to be good, Matthew and I muse on how the Trump Administration’s China policy is coinciding with broader economic trends to force US companies to reconsider their reliance on Chinese manufacturing.
Our News Roundup leads with the long, slow death of Section 230 immunity. Nick Weaver explains why he thinks social media’s pursuit of engagement has led to a poisonous online environment, and Matthew Heiman replays the astonishing international consensus that Silicon Valley deserves the blame – and the regulation – for all that ails the Internet. The UK is considering holding social media execs liable for “harmful” content on their platforms. Australia has already passed a law to punish social media companies for failure to remove “abhorrent violent material.” And Singapore is happily drafting behind the West, avoiding for once the criticism that its press controls are out of step with the international community. Even Mark Zuckerberg is reading the writing on the wall and asking for regulation. I note that lost in the one-minute hate directed at social media is any notion that other countries shouldn’t be able to tell Americans what they can and can’t read. I also wonder whether the consensus that platforms should be editors will add to conservative doubts about maintaining Section 230 at all – and in the process endanger the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would enshrine Section 230 in US treaty obligations.
In today’s News Roundup, Klon Kitchen adds to the North Korean Embassy invasion by an unknown group. Turns out some of the participants fled to the US and lawyered up, but the real tipoff about attribution is that they’ve given some of the data they stole to the FBI. That rules out CIA involvement right there.
Nick Weaver talks about Hal Martin pleading guilty to unlawfully retaining massive amounts of classified NSA hacking data. It’s looking more and more as though Martin was just a packrat, making his sentence of nine years in prison about right. But as Nick points out, that leaves unexplained how the Russians got hold of so much NSA data themselves.
I know. That could be any national strategy written in the last 15 years. And that’s the point. In our interview, Dr. Amy Zegart and I discuss the national cyber strategy and what’s wrong with it, along with the culture clash between DOD and Silicon Valley (especially Google), and whether the Mueller report should lead to a similarly thorough investigation into how the Intelligence Community and Justice handled the allegations at the start of the Trump Administration. Plus, Amy answers this burning question: “If a banana republic is a country where losing an election means getting criminally investigated, what do you call a country where winning an election means you get criminally investigated?”
In our interview, Elsa Kania and Sam Bendett explain what China and Russia have learned from the American way of warfighting – and from Russia’s success in Syria. The short answer: everything. But instead of leaving us smug, I argue it ought to leave us worried about surprise. Elsa and Sam both try to predict where the surprises might come from. Yogi Berra makes an appearance.
Maury interviews James Griffiths, a journalist based in Hong Kong and the author of the new book, The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet.
Our interview is with two men who overcame careers as lawyers and journalists to become serial entrepreneurs now trying to solve the “fake news” problem. Gordon Crovitz and Steve Brill co-founded NewsGuard to rate news sites on nine journalistic criteria. Using, of all things, real people instead of algorithms. By the end of the interview, I’ve confessed myself a reluctant convert to the effort. This is despite NewsGuard’s treatment of Instapundit, which Gordon Crovitz and I both read regularly but which has not received a green check.
We interview Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike on the company’s 2019 Global Threat Report, which features a ranking of Western cyber adversaries based on how long it takes each of them to turn a modest foothold into code execution on a compromised network. The Russians put up truly frightening numbers – from foothold to execution in less than twenty minutes – but the real surprise is the North Koreans, who clock in at 2:20. The Chinese take the bronze at just over 4 hours. Dmitri also gives props to a newcomer – South Korea – whose skills are substantial.
The backlash against Big Tech dominates the episode, with new regulatory initiatives in the US, EU, Israel, Russia, and China. The misbegotten link tax and upload filter provisions of the EU copyright directive have survived the convoluted EU legislative gantlet. My prediction: the link tax will fail because Google wants it to fail, but the upload filter will succeed because Google wants YouTube’s competitors to fail.