After brazenly interfering in the 2016 US election, Russia now “perceive[s] . . . its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian midterm operations.” That was the warning delivered by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on behalf of the US Intelligence Community to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) as part of the worldwide threat briefing that took place February 13, 2018.
Aegis: Security Policy in Depth
Aegis explores legal and policy issues at the intersection of technology and national security. Published in partnership with the Hoover Institution National Security, Technology and Law Working Group, it features long-form essays of the working group, examines major new books in the field, and carries podcasts and videos or the working group’s events in Washington and Stanford. Aegis examines the legal and policy options that better shield America, its allies, and civilians worldwide from the risks of the modern world. The Hoover Working Group on National Security, Technology, and Law brings together national and international specialists with broad interdisciplinary expertise to analyze how technology affects national security and national security law.
To regulate social media in the twenty-first century, we should focus on its political economy: the nature of digital capitalism and how we pay for the digital public sphere we have. Our digital public sphere is premised on a grand bargain: free communications services in exchange for pervasive data collection and analysis. This allows companies to sell access to end users to the companies’ advertisers and other businesses.
In recent decades, both Democratic and Republican administrations have tried to guide other countries toward liberal democracy. But international relations theorist John Mearsheimer’s latest book, “The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realties,” argues that this strategy has made the U.S. a “highly militarized state fighting wars that undermine peace, harm human rights, and threaten liberal values at home.” Last week, at a book talk at the Hoover Institution’s Washington office, Jack Goldsmith sat down with Mearsheimer to discuss the book.
Technology firms are extraordinarily powerful. They control vast sums of money. They serve unprecedentedly large customer bases—in some instances, larger customer bases than any nation on earth (Facebook now has over 2 billion users).
On Thursday, Sept. 6, Twitter permanently banned the right-wing provocateur Alex Jones and his conspiracy theorist website Infowars from its platform. This was something of the final blow to Jones’s online presence: Facebook, Apple and Youtube, among others, blocked Jones from using their services in early August. Cut off from Twitter as well, he is now severely limited in his ability to spread his conspiracy theories to a mainstream audience.
Major technology and social-media companies— think Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Google— wield tremendous power. Given their reach, their financial heft, their importance to vast swaths of customers dependent on their goods, services, and platforms, and their ability to influence (if not altogether dictate) transnational public policy, these firms often look and act the part of proprietors, stewards, and even governors of digital public squares.
Never before in history have terrorists had such easy access to the minds and eyeballs of millions,” declared one journalistic account of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine and proficient use of Twitter, Facebook, bots, and other modern means of getting its message out. Such views that the group’s “mastery of modern digital tools” has transformed terrorism are commonplace and, though usually presented breathlessly, contain some basic truths. Successful terrorist groups are good communicators and they employ the technology of their times.
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