Cybersecurity & Tech

The Cyberlaw Podcast: Google’s Gemini Tells Us Exactly What’s Wrong with Silicon Valley

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, February 27, 2024, 3:22 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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This episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast kicks off with the Babylon Bee’s take on Google Gemini’s woke determination to inject a phony diversity into images of historical characters, The Bee purports to quote a black woman commenting on the AI engine’s performance: "After decades of nothing but white Nazis, I can finally see a strong, confident black female wearing a swastika. Thanks, Google!" Jim Dempsey and Mark MacCarthy join the discussion because Gemini’s preposterous diversity quotas deserve more than snark. In fact, I argue, they were not errors; they were entirely deliberate efforts by Google to give its users not what they want but what Google in its wisdom thinks they should want. That such bizarre results were achieved by Google’s sneakily editing prompts to ask for, say, “indigenous” founding fathers simply shows that Google has found a unique combination of hubris and incompetence. More broadly, Mark and Jim suggest, the collapse of Google’s effort to control its users raises this question: Can we trust AI developers when they say they have installed guardrails to make their systems safe?

The same might be asked of the latest in what seems an endless stream of experts demanding that AI models defeat their users by preventing them from creating “harmful” deepfake images. Later, Mark points out that most of Silicon Valley recently signed on to promises to combat election-related deepfakes. 

Speaking of hubris, Michael Ellis covers the State Department’s stonewalling of a House committee trying to find out how generously the Department funded a group of ideologues trying to cut off advertising revenues for right-of-center news and comment sites. We take this story a little personally, having contributed op-eds to several of the blacklisted sites.  

Michael explains just how much fun Western governments had taking down the infamous Lockbit ransomware service. I credit the Brits for the humor displayed as governments imitated Lockbit’s graphics, gimmicks, and attitude. There were arrests, cryptocurrency seizuresindictments, and more. But a week later, Lockbit was claiming that its infrastructure was slowly coming back on line.

Jim unpacks the FTC’s case against Avast for collecting the browsing habits of its antivirus customers. He sees this as another battle in the FTC’s war against “de-identified” data as a response to privacy concerns.

Mark notes the EU’s latest investigation into TikTok. And Michael explains how the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ties to Tucker Carlson’s ouster from the Fox network.

Mark and I take a moment to tease next week’s review of the Supreme Court oral argument over Texas and Florida social media laws. The argument was happening while we were recording, but it’s clear that the outcome will be a mixed bag. Tune in next week for more.

Jim explains why the administration has produced an executive order about cybersecurity in America’s ports, and the legal steps needed to bolster port security.

Finally, in quick hits:


Download 493rd Episode (mp3)

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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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