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.


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Our interview is with Alex Joel, former Chief of the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Alex is now at the American University law school’s Tech, Law, and Security Program. We share stories about the difficulties of government startups and how the ODNI carved out a role for itself in the Intelligence Community (hint: It involved good lawyering). We dive pretty deep on recent FISA court opinions and the changes they forced in FBI procedures. In the course of that discussion, I realize that every “reform” of intelligence dreamed up by Congress in the last decade has turned out to be a self-licking compliance trap, and I take back some of my praise for the DNI’s lawyering.


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Camille Stewart talks about a little-known national security risk: China’s propensity to acquire US technology through the bankruptcy courts and the many ways in which the bankruptcy system isn’t set up to combat improper tech transfers. Published by the Journal of National Security Law & Policy, Camille’s paper is available here. Camille has enjoyed great success in her young career working with the Transformative Cyber Innovation Lab at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as a Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America, and as a 2019 Cyber Security Woman of the Year, among other achievements. We talk at the end of the session about life and advancement as an African American woman in cybersecurity.


Want to hear more from Camille on this topic? She’ll be speaking Friday, September 13, at a lunch event hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. She’ll be joined by fellow panelists Giovanna Cinelli, Jamil Jaffer, and Harvey Rishikof, along with moderator Dr. Samantha Ravich. The event will be livestreamed at www.fdd.org/events. If you would like to learn more about the event, please contact Abigail Barnes at FDD. If you are a member of the press, please direct your inquiries to press@fdd.org.



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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.


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