The Cyberlaw Podcast: LinkedIn, Slinkedout: Microsoft and China

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 2:11 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Fresh from his launch of the Alperovitch Institute for Cybersecurity Studies, Dmitri Alperovitch kicks off this episode with a hopeful take on the 31-nation videoconference devoted to combatting ransomware. He and Nate Jones both think a coordinated international effort could pay off. I challenge Dmitri to identify one new initiative that this group could enforce, and he rises to the occasion.

Dmitri also previews one of the proposals for regulating Silicon Valley that might yet make it through Congress—a ban on “self-preferencing” by platforms that sell both their own and other people’s products. No, we don’t get out of this discussion without a “Master of our domain” Seinfeld reference. Or a nod in the direction of China’s even more aggressive use of antitrust remedies against companies like meal delivery giant Meituan.

Tatyana Bolton, meanwhile, identifies a second front in the attack on Big Tech – regulation of algorithms. This leads us into a discussion of freedom of speech versus “freedom of reach” and a WSJ story on the weaknesses of Facebook’s AI system for downrating but only occasionally nuking “hate speech.” I argue that social media will embrace AI reach restrictions, if only as a way to make sure the victims of Silicon Valley censorship never realize how much their voices are being squelched.

Microsoft has given up its ambitions for LinkedIn’s China operations, Dmitri notes, dropping the social media elements and moving to straight job listings. I think the retreat was overdetermined by the Chinese government’s effort to extract both financial and political concessions from Microsoft. In more news about Chinese regulation, it turns out that the Chinese ban on crypto-mining didn’t quite reach the crypto miners using state resources.

But if China is slowly poisoning its high-tech sector, why does a former Pentagon official think the U.S. has lost the AI race to China? Nate and I are cautiously skeptical of that view, not least because of the official’s, uh, provenance.

Tatyana and I dig into WhatsApp’s somewhat limited adoption of encrypted backups, and the policy’s likely impact on law enforcement and different categories of criminal. In quick hits, I also nod to the critique of “client-side scanning” of phone content for law enforcement offered by All the Usual Cryptographers.

In more comic relief, the governor of Missouri embarrasses himself by threatening criminal prosecution after a state website’s security flaws are exposed by a reporter who seems to have done all the right things from a responsible disclosure point of view.

In other quick hits, 

  • I report on Facebook’s appeal of the magistrate opinion unexpectedly gutting the Stored Communications Act for everyone who’s ever been deplatformed by social media. It’s a workmanlike effort, but only mildly persuasive. This could turn out to be a big hole in the SCA, I offer.
  • Dmitri breaks down the federal government’s plan to issue SD cards to all its employees for network access. It’s a good idea, he thinks, but saying it will end phishing of employees is more fond hope than reasonable expectation.

Download the 379th Episode (mp3)

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

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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