In this episode, I interview Thomas Rid about his illuminating study of Russian disinformation, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare. It lays out a century of Soviet, East European, and Russian disinformation, beginning with an elaborate and successful operation against the White Russian expatriate resistance to Bolshevik rule in the 1920s. Rid has dug into recently declassified material using digital tools that enable him to tell previously untold tales – the Soviets’ remarkable success in turning opposition to US nuclear missiles in Europe into a mass movement (and the potential shadow it casts on the legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy), the unimpressive record of US disinformation compared to the ruthless Soviet version, and the fake American lobbyist (and real German agent) who persuaded a German conservative legislator to save Willy Brandt’s leftist government. We close with two very different predictions about the kind of disinformation we’ll see in the 2020 campaign.


Continue Reading Episode 312: Russia’s online disinformation has a 100-year history

David Kris, Paul Rosenzweig, and I dive deep on the big tech issue of the COVID-19 contagion: Whether (but mostly how) to use mobile phone location services to fight the virus. We cover the Israeli approach, as well as a host of solutions adopted in Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and elsewhere. I’m a big fan of Singapore, which produced in a week an app that Nick Weaver thought would take a year.

In our interview, evelyn douek, currently at the Berkman Klein Center and an SJD candidate at Harvard, takes us deep into content moderation. Displaying a talent for complexifying an issue we all want to simplify, she explains why we can’t live with social platform censorship and why we can’t live without it. She walks us through the growth of content moderation, from spam, through child porn, and on to terrorism and “coordinated inauthentic behavior” – the identification of which, evelyn assures me, does not require an existentialist dance instructor. Instead, it’s the latest and least easily defined category of speech to be suppressed by Big Tech. It’s a mare’s nest, but I, for one, intend to aggravate our new Tech Overlords for as long as possible.


Continue Reading Episode 308: Location, location, location. And the virus.

In breaking news from 1995, the Washington Post takes advantage of a leaked CIA history paper to retell the remarkable tale of Crypto AG, a purveyor of encryption products to dozens of governments – and allegedly a wholly controlled subsidiary of US and German intelligence. Nick Weaver, Paul Rosenzweig, and I are astonished at the derring-do and unapologetic enthusiasm for intelligence collection. I mean, really: The Pope?

This week’s interview is with Jonathan Reiber, a writer and strategist in Oakland, California, and former Chief Strategy Officer for Cyber Policy and Speechwriter at the Department of Defense, currently senior advisor at Technology for Global Security and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. His recent report offers a candid view of strained relations between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon. The interview explores the reasons for that strain, the importance of bridging the gap, and how that can best be done.


Continue Reading Episode 300: Wiretapping the Pope

Nick Weaver and I debate Sens. Graham and Blumenthal’s EARN IT Act, a proposal to require that social media firms follow best practices on preventing child abuse. If they don’t, they won’t get full Section 230 immunity from liability for recklessly allowing the abuse. Nick thinks the idea is ill-conceived and doomed to fail. I think there’s a core of sense to the proposal, which simply asks that Silicon Valley firms who are reckless about child abuse on their networks pay for the social costs they’re imposing on society. Since the bill gives the attorney general authority to modify the best practices submitted by a commission of industry, academic, and civic representatives, critics are sure that the final product will reduce corporate incentives to offer end-to-end encryption.


Continue Reading Episode 298: Bill Barr as Bogeyman

This episode features an interview on the Bezos phone flap with David Kaye and Alex Stamos. David is a UN Special Rapporteur and clinical professor of law at UC Irvine who first drew attention to an FTI Consulting report concluding that the Saudis did hack Bezos’ phone. Alex is director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and was the CSO at Facebook; he thinks the technical case against the Saudis needs work, and he calls for a supplemental forensic review of the phone.


Continue Reading Episode 297: Did the Saudi Crown Prince hack Jeff Bezos’s phone?

For this special edition of the Cyberlaw Podcast, we’ve convened a panel of experts on intelligence and surveillance legal matters. We take a look at the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s use of FISA applications – and the many errors in those applications. We also touch on FBI Director Wray’s response, as well as a public order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We wrap up with thoughts on how to resolve some of the issues identified by the IG’s report and suggestions for improving the FISA process.


Continue Reading Episode 294: Examining the DOJ Inspector General’s FBI-FISA Report

This Week in the Great Decoupling: The Commerce Department has rolled out proposed telecom and supply chain security rules that never once mention China. More accurately, the Department has rolled out a sketch of its preliminary thinking about proposed rules. Brian Egan and I tackle the substance and history of the proposal and conclude that the government is still fighting about the content of a policy it’s already announced. And to show that decoupling can go both ways, a US-based chip-tech group is moving to Switzerland to reassure its Chinese participants. Nick Weaver and I conclude that there’s a little less here than Reuters seems to think.


Continue Reading Episode 290: The Right to be Forgotten Shoots the Shark

We open the episode with David Kris’s thoughts on the two-years-late CFIUS investigation of TikTok, its Chinese owner, ByteDance, and ByteDance’s US acquisition of the lip-syncing company Musical.ly. Our best guess is that this unprecedented reach-back investigation will end in a more or less precedented mitigation agreement.


Continue Reading Episode 285: ByteDance bitten by CFIUS

With apologies for the late post, Episode 263 of The Cyberlaw Podcast tells the sad tale of another US government leaker who unwisely trusted The Intercept not to compromise its source. As Nick Weaver points out, The Intercept also took forever to actually report on some of the material it received.

In other

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.


Continue Reading Episode 259: Why France understands Chinese policy better than the rest of us