Episode 193:  David Ignatius and The Quantum Spy

We celebrate the holiday season by interviewing David Ignatius, Columnist and Associate Editor at The Washington Post and the author of multiple spy thrillers, including his most recent, The Quantum Spy.  David and I discuss themes from the book, from quantum computing to ethnic and gender tensions at the Agency, while managing to avoid spoilers. It’s a fun and insightful work.

Steptoe partner Stewart Baker with David Ignatius.

In the news, I flag Twitter’s weird journey from the free speech wing of the free speech party to the censorship wing of the Censor’s Party.  Twitter is now revoking the verification checks for people whose speech it disapproves of.  It’s even de-checking people based on its assessment of their off-line conduct.  So maybe that should be the Stasi wing of the Censor’s Party.  And, not surprisingly, given Silicon Valley’s steep leftward-tilt, the censorship seems to fall far more harshly on the right than on less PC targets.

Markham Erickson and I treat Twitter’s wobbly stance as a symptom of the breakdown of the Magaziner Consensus, as both left and right for their own reasons come to view Big Tech with suspicion.  Markham has shrewd observations about what it all means for the (questionable) future of social media’s section 230 immunity.

We dive into a surprising new analysis of China’s “50c Army.”  Turns out that the Chinese government strategy for flooding the internet is 180 degrees off from Russia’s.  Instead of a Trollfest, Chinese government-funded social media is saccharine sweet.  Cheerleading and changing the subject are what its army does best.

Markham, Brian Egan, and I give broadly positive reviews to the US government’s recently announced Vulnerability Equities Process.  And, in a correction to those who’ve said that other countries don’t have such a process, I point to evidence that China has one – in which all the equities seem to point to exploit, exploit, exploit.

All of which ought to turn the story of US agencies using Chinese “security” cameras from disquieting to positively frightening.  Speaking of which, the Chinese company that made your drone has provided a case study on how not to do a bug bounty program.  Read it and weep.

On a lighter note, we talk backflipping robots and a surprising peril of traveling with your family this holiday season – thumbprint phone security failure followed by titanic spousal air rage.  Where is Tim Cook’s privacy schtick when we really need it?

As always The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com or leave a message at +1 202 862 5785.

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.