The Cyberlaw Podcast: AI Dystopia: Only the Elite Will Escape the Algorithm

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, September 28, 2021, 10:55 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

In this episode, we welcome Nick Weaver back for a special appearance thanks to the time-shifting powers of podcast software. He does a sack dance over cryptocurrency, flagging both China’s ban on cryptocurrency transactions and the U.S. Treasury’s sanctioning of the SUEX crypto exchange.

Maury Shenk explains the plans that the Biden administration and the EU have for Big Tech and the rest of us. Hint: it involves more content moderation in support of, err, democracy.

Adam Candeub gives us a tour of Wall Street Journal’s the deeply reported series on Facebook’s difficulties managing the social consequences of, well, the internet, a responsibility that the press is determined to impose on the company. Among the quasi-scandals turned up by the Wall Street Journal is details on the list of “secret elite” of users protected from Facebook’s clunky and clueless content moderation algorithms. But really, in today’s world, true power is about escaping the clueless algorithms otherwise imposed on us by various authorities. We all aspire to join that elite. And perhaps we all can, if Ohio’s Attorney General and its latest Senate candidate get their way, making Google into a common carrier. (If that happens, we’ll credit Adam, who wrote an amicus brief in support.)

And what’s an elite without its hands on the levers of industry? China’s embrace of national champions on the world stage has forced a rethinking in the West of industrial policy. So, the auto industry’s commercial problem (they want cheap, plentiful, and antiquated chips for their cars) is suddenly a matter for White House meetings, and hints that the government might have its own supply allocation plans.

In fact, regulating the private sector is so in vogue, as long as it’s a tech-ish private sector, that California barely made news when it imposed a new and almost undefinable regulatory obligation on warehouse companies like Amazon. At bottom, I argue, this is yet another attempt to put workers back on top of the algorithm—by demanding that it explain itself.

Maury next takes us to the heart of algorithmic power and our unease with it, explaining that Google now admits that it has no idea how to make AI less toxic.

In quick hits:

  • Washington whispers about Zoom’s ties to China have grown louder, as the U.S. government announces a national security review of its proposed acquisition of Five9 for $15 billion.
  • Contrary to my understanding, at least one former intel operative who went to work for the United Arab Emirates in Project Raven landed very much on his feet—as CTO at ExpressVPN, though company employees have been expressing unhappiness about his history.
  • And podcast regular Dmitri Alperovitch has an op-ed in the New York Times that urges much tougher tactics in the fight against ransomware gangs.

And more!

Stewart A. Baker is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. He returned to the firm following 3½ years at the Department of Homeland Security as its first Assistant Secretary for Policy. He earlier served as general counsel of the National Security Agency.

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